Set in Elizabethan England, this cloying and florid romance is very much in the tradition of Small's previous offerings, notable among them Skye O'Malley and All the Sweet Tomorrows. Replete with elaborate period detail, solid if romanticized historical backdrops, and enough softcore sex to satisfy the most demanding devotees of the genre, this latest novel propels its young, exquisite, titled, fabulously wealthy, strong-willed, impetuous and intrepid heroine, Velvet de Marisco, on a series of love-drenched adventures that range from the glittering court of Elizabeth Tudor through the remote dominions of Scottish royalty to the exotic domain of the Emperor of India. Daughter of Skye O'Malley, herself the mistress of a far-flung trading empire and no stranger to adventure, Velvet has been betrothed as a young girl to Alexander Gordon, Scots Earl of Broc Cairn. When she is 15, while her parents are off on a mission to India for Queen Elizabeth, Gordon comes to claim Velvet, who will have none of him. After trying manfully to woo and win her the old-fashioned way--through courtliness, kindness and sexual blandishments--Gordon, wearying of her continued coyness and resistance, kidnaps her and drags her off to Scotland. Before they can settle down to bedded bliss, however, the newlyweds must suffer a series of protracted separations, most of which involve Velvet's being abducted or otherwise sidetracked by various ""noble lords""--the Emperor of India receives her as a ""present"" from a Portuguese official through a series of contretemps too complicated to recount--and then held, until help arrives, in sexual thralldom. Eventually, she is reunited with her ""wild Highland husband,"" and happily commences the business of giving him heirs. Even non-initiates will have to admit that this huge volume is vintage historical romance. Aficionados, and all others who fancy devouring over 600 pages of chocolate-covered cherries, will be transported.