More historical tonnage by the author of Mary Queen of Scots and the Isles (1992), etc. Again, George highlights the dangerous vagaries of love and lust in the career of one born to the purple. Here, politics and empire-building by the fabled Egyptian queen (69 B.C.-30 B.C.) simmer on the back burner while Cleopatra is engulfed by two mighty lovers: Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. The former, ""master of the world,"" arrives in Egypt after Cleopatra has been deposed by wily siblings. Legend has it--as does George--that the nubile future queen chose to be smuggled secretly to Caesar's boudoir in a rug. After an unfurling and some shrewd diplomatic chat, lovemaking with this ""courteous and elegant man"" beckons thrillingly. Then follow idylls in exotically beautiful eastern landscapes and the queen's pregnancy (she bears Caesar a son). Besotted, curious, but wary of Caesar's homeland, Cleopatra joins Caesar in Rome, witnesses Triumphs (victory parades), blood sports, and some nasty political maneuvering. Then come the Ides and Cleopatra is ""widowed."" Enter Marc Antony a few years later, a military hero who, with Caesar's heir, Octavian, defeated Caesar's assassins, and with Octavian rules Rome. Ah, Antony!--he of ""bodily perfection."" The queen will have three children by Antony, and continue her campaign for the return of old Egyptian territories. There are dreams of glory with nobly intentioned Antony, but all too soon comes the horror of defeat and parting. Cleopatra outwits Octavian only by her self-inflicted death. Unlike George's Mary, based on that sovereign's letters and diaries, Cleopatra's voice is lost in the sands of time, and its echo here is curiously bland. As for the power boys--Caesar and Antony--both lack the steely tang of Colleen McCullough's portraits. Still, Cleopatra's story has a timeless fascination.