An amateur historian and one of Europe's floating royals, Prince Michael offers a highly speculative, if fictionally bland, profile of the ""French sultana""--who, he believes, had a decisive influence on Turkish policies during the reign of Selim III (17891807) and his successor, Mahmud II. Raised in Martinique, cousin to the future Empress Josephine, very young AimÃ‰e Dubuc visits France, is then captured by pirates--and routed to the harem of elderly Sultan Abdul Hamid. AimÃ‰e will rise in the ranks of the convent-like seraglio hierarchy, with its imperial princes and princesses, the official favorites, 40 ""unofficial favorites,"" 400 female slaves, and 300 black eunuchs. At age 15, she's invited to the bed of the Sultan--a nice fatherly chap who recites poetry: ""I had the feeling of restoring self-confidence to an old man nearing the end of his troubles."" She meets heir Selim, an intelligent, sensitive young fellow in his ""Cage"" apartment. (By this time male heirs were penned rather than murdered.) And when Selim inherits the troubled empire in 1789, he offers AimÃ‰e a chance to return to her home. But, drawn to Selim and feeling a deep love and responsibility as quasi-nanny to Prince Mahmud, AimÃ‰e stays, becomes Selim's lover, and shows a flair for handling mayhem beyond the silken curtain; she prods and guides Selim through his reform programs and the backlash from clergy and military; she also kibbitzes--and plays a hand or two--in the high-stake chicanery of the Russians, British, and Bonaparte. After two bloody coups, the death of Selim and a royal claimant, AimÃ‰e, now ""Valideh Sultana"" to Mahmud II, achieves her greatest triumph--by insisting on a treaty with the Russians just when Napoleon expects their help. ""You were the cog,"" she is told, ""that ruined the Great Emperor's machine."" Not nearly so meticulous, dramatic, or convincing as Aileen Crawley's similar The Shadow of God (p. 16)--but the author's royal identity may give this un-dashing novel a somewhat glamorous aura.