A rather talky romance from veteran Hodge: here, it's 1811 and a young English girl (daughter of the heroine of Windover, 1992) and her friend, a renowned beauty and popular singer, find themselves on the political anthill of Sicily during the Napoleonic wars. Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Comryn, of Hull, has just refused the proposal of John Thornton, whom she suspects of having an eye on the Comryn family bank. Ill and miserable, she flees to Beth Prior, her mother's former servant, now established as a performer and able to be choosy about her men. Beth has been persuaded to sail to Sicily to cozy up to the former Queen of Naples, presently the ruling hand in Sicily (a queen ``given to opium and hysteria''). The British are in shaky control--but the queen's granddaughter is married to Napoleon. Off to Sicily go Beth and Charlotte, and, naturally, men gather: Charlotte's charming German tutor, Beth's current lover, Nathan Peabody, and--of all things, John Thornton. While Beth and the elderly queen hit it off, rumors fly; silly Charlotte goes where any sensible girl would fear to tread; and there's a kidnapping (Charlotte winds up at something naughty called ``The House of Persephone'')--plus a very dangerous festival--before the good chaps bucket back to Hull. The spying that circles around the political mess here is too scattered and implausible. The Windover crowd had more pep.