Having published accessible, chatty bio-fictions for every English monarch from William I to Victoria, Plaidy is now embarked on a Great Queen series--in which peak Queens narrate their own stories. So here Elizabeth I, possibly England's toughest, canniest ruler, speaks for herself--unfortunately, however, in that Plaidy drone which effectively flattens personality to the dimensions of an oatcake. Plaidy's queen is the familiar figure: the supreme monarch who felt her person embodied a people for whom she kept the peace; who was alert as a jackal to any threat to her autonomy; whose famed virginity was both a diplomatic lever and a satisfying romantic titillation. (""Marriages grew stale. Courtship never."") Elizabeth learns the need for survival tactics early on--as a pawn during the brief, doomed reigns of Edward VI and Mary, amid the power plays of rampaging nobles and European nations. But, even in the Tower, this pawn's total being is focused on the end game: knowing instinctively when to advance and withdraw, Elizabeth gains her throne with cunning and iron patience. Thereafter, the emphasis is on the queen's struggle (refined to policy) to subordinate romantic love to the imperatives of holding the crown: remembering the fate of bygone suitor Thomas Seymour, Elizabeth denies marriage to Robert Dudley, the man she truly loves; Essex is wild, mindless, doomed; other courtiers are docile, handsome, brilliant, faithful. And the Mary Queen of Scots tragi-comedy of errors gets a fair amount of space--some of it convincing, some of it flimsily speculative: Elizabeth is supposedly irritated by Mary's sex appeal; even more unlikely, Elizabeth recalls the Mary execution with. . . ""Looking back, I am ashamed."" (Doesn't being Elizabeth I mean never having to say you're sorry?) An orderly, conscientious chronicle--but this is Gloriana sans wit, passion, and her eternal fascination.