Catherine Noel Werlee, daughter of a French-born captain of an Indian commercial port, was married before the age of 15. Beauty and a naive charm trapped her in the toils of conflict between Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal, and Philip Francis, notorious member of the Supreme Council of India. Pursued fitfully by Francis, she sought to establish herself in Paris. Her physical attributes, command of fashionable graces, and childlike simplicity were called into play when she faced the need to sustain herself. Talleyrand set her up in grand style as his ""hostees""; her hasty divorce and their marriage took place only after an ultimatum from Napoleon. For nearly 50 years scandal haunted their peculiar marriage, but long before it ended with her death she had ceased to be more than a trifling annoyance in the great man's life. The flamboyance of late-eighteenth-century French history has been the backdrop of many, many ""historical novels""; this biography differs little from them except that its characters were real. Repetition detracts from the book's stylistic effect, and several odd contradictions about the subject are never resolved, e.g., repeatedly and forcefully, Miss Joelson characterizes Catherine as ""abysmally"" indolent -- but nonetheless reports that she was able to engage in numerous complex financial and political transactions with complete success. Of some merit as a period-piece, this study fails to engender any emotional commitment because its subject was a person of such little real worth.