A thoughtful, probing biography of the incomparable Lola -- perhaps the 19th century's most flamboyant femme fatale. Ms. Darling follows her dazzling pirouettes through her own disingenuous, often fanciful Autobiography, her love letters to Liszt, and the 'Mad' King Ludvig of Bavaria, and the reminiscences and sadder-but-wiser ruminations of her numerous lesser lovers. Alternately lionized and ostracized by respectable society, Lola, according to her levelheaded, not at all bedazzled biographer, was an unbridled adventuress who freely blended fact and fiction reshaping her past and present personalities to suit the requirements of the country and man of the hour. As a dancer she was ""an international joke""; as an actress she was worse; only when Lola (nee Betty Gilbert) played Lola away from the footlights did she shine. Unlike previous biographers (cf., Ishbel Ross' The Uncrowned Queen, p. 119) who have tended to see her last years as a tragic collapse, Darling believes that Lola continued her role-playing to the very end of her amazing life. When her beauty began to fade she embraced her last and most unlikely role, that of penitent pious convert, with the same gusto she gave to her earlier indiscretions: preaching against sin ""she told them what they wanted to hear, and already believed, so she was a success -- once again."" A chameleon by nature, Lola did have one profound and self-actualized conviction: as fervently as her contemporary George Sand, she believed in total social equality for women -- at various times she wielded pistols, a javelin, and a whip to prove it. Her ""liberal"" politics during the Bavarian episode is dismissed as an affectation -- another way of flaunting her ungovernable, defiant self before the scandalized eyes of her public. Darling does not try to emulate Lola's pizazz; her book is a modest but believable look behind the immodest and incredible legend that was Lola Montez.