Blake's latest clanking steam calliope of a period romance takes place in 19th-century Louisiana--familiar territory to the author of Love and Smoke (Blake's 1989 hardcover debut), Joy and Anger, Wildest Dreams and many paperback palpitations. Here, the cosmic coupling of a reluctant (married) virgin and the hero is brought about in the trappings of a medieval estate, complete with tournaments, a Court of Love, and a tower. Katrina has been wed five years to older, colder Giles Castlereigh; the marriage has not been consummated, but Giles desperately wants an heir. (What is the problem? Gay? Sterile? Incomplete? Nope. But the tell-all won't occur until the last few crowded pages.) Meanwhile, Giles enjoys playing the lord of the manor with a staging of medieval games and Court of Love discussions at dinner; he is also choosing a champion to sire his child with Katrina. Then arrives Rowan de Blanc--the great swordsman, archer, etc.--essentially to find the murderer of his brother. Katrina is appalled at Giles's plan, and after pages of talk about it all (a battle of wits with very dull blades), Giles, growing impatient, seals the pair, naked, in a tower room. Still, there are yards of doubt to go before the two do their Blakean soaring. At the close, there'll also be: a strangled young girl; a dual killing; a spate of confessions; and a final elopement. Compared with Amanda Quick's Deception (see below), this is sluggish and shows all its gears--on autopilot for the fans, then, who are legion.