Hyperbolically self-proclaimed as ""Lust's Leading Lady,"" Small (Skye O'Malley, Unconquered) returns with another heavy-breathing mixture of potted history and porno-passion--this time featuring Zenobia, queen of oasis city Palmyra in the 3rd Century A.D. Daughter of a Bedawi warrior-chief and an Alexandrian heiress, Zenobia learns to hate the Romans as a child--when her mother is raped and killed by a centurion. (""'By the gods,' he grunted, ""this is the best piece of cunt I've fucked in months!'"") Thus, when gorgeous teenager Zenobia is chosen for royal spouse-ship by Prince Odeanthus of Palmyra, she vows to help free her city from Roman occupation--even as she falls hard (but only in wish, not deed) for Roman soldier Marcus Bfitainus, who's helping Palmyra to vanquish nasty neighbors. Then, a decade or so later, Odeanthus is poisoned by a bastard son, so Zenobia takes over, determined to hand over a free city (even an empire) to her son, up-and-coming King Vaba. But, though a hot secret liaison with Marcus begins before the corpse is cold (producing a daughter), Zenobia's plans for sneakily winning independence go awry: Marcus, back in Rome, is forced to wed Emperor Aurelian's pregnant niece; Aurelian leads troops to humble the upstart Palmyrans; and Zenobia becomes the lusty Emperor's angry yet throbbingly responsive captive/mistress. (""'I hate you!' she snarled at him through gritted teeth. 'But your delicious body wants mine,' he murmured."" Etc.) So finally Zenobia is dragged back in sexy shame to Rome--where she will endure degrading orgies before Aurelian falls. . . and Marcus whisks her off to new horizons in Roman Britain. Warrior-queen Zenobia isn't the most credible, likable, or modest of oldfangled, quasi-feminist Wonder Women: ""Why would their son not listen to her? Because you are a woman, said the little voice in her head. It matters not that you are the greatest queen upon the earth in many centuries. . . ."" And the dialogue is often more Pasadena than Palmyra. (""How would you like to spend your nights servicing every rich and randy cock in Rome?"") But there's plenty of moderately hardcore copulation here--and a dollop or two of gore--for Small's paperback-palpitation following.