The perennially appealing story of Victoria's isolated, fettered childhood and her delighted acession, at 18, to the throne--in what is little more, however, than a quick-step version, incident-by-incident and quote-by-quote, of the first 200 pages of Cecil Woodham-Smith's Queen Victoria. Still, readers put off by the density of detail in Woodham-Smith will find Plowden's breezy narrative painless and entertaining: Regency domestic embroilments suit her better, indeed, than the Elizabethan upheavals of Marriage with My Kingdom, etc. And she does offer a somewhat different, more generous assessment of Victoria's early upbringing under the ""Kensington System""--the strict regimen instituted by her mother, the widowed Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess' eminence grise, Major Conroy, not only to bind Victoria to her mother and ward off court influence, Plowden maintains, but also for her wholesome, natural development. For the rest, the story is familiar: young Princess Charlotte dies, leaving the House of Hanover without prospects of an heir; dotty old George III's middle-aged rouÃ‰ sons scramble to marry and produce one; the Duke of Kent's German bride gives birth to Victoria--who, as other contenders fail to survive (or to materialize), moves ever closer to the throne. Meanwhile the Duke dies, leaving his widow penniless and friendless (he was a glum Whig, and anathema to his Tory brothers); her brother Leopold, Charlotte's widower, provides the wherewithal for her to, strategically, raise Victoria in England; she and Conroy, anticipating another Regency, bring up Victoria to do their bidding; she forms a defensive alliance with her governess, the quietly formidable Lehzen. But her uncle, William IV, surprises everyone by living until Victoria reaches her majority--and on the day she becomes Queen, she surprises everyone by her aplomb. There'll be no more sleeping in Mama's room, either, and never another word to Conroy. The remainder of the tale centers on Victoria's enraptured apprenticeship to her P.M. Melbourne, and the advent of another cynosure, Prince Albert. Perhaps too vividly characterized and too animated, but an effective dramatization for scholarship-shy readers.