QUEEN OF THE LIGHTNING by Kathleen Herbert


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Romance in seventh-century Britain--fermenting amid the endless feuds and sword-hacking warfare between the royal houses of Cumbria (Welsh) and Northumbria, with their muddle of allies (all with eye-glazing names). After the death of her brother, Princess Riemmelth is the last heir of the Cumbrian royal house, with a pedigree which reaches back to the husband of Morgan le Fay. Riemmelth herself is a bit of a fay, beauty-wise, with eyes ""soft as blue woodsmoke and as luminous as the heart of a candle flame."" She is hopelessly in love with Elidir, a Manx chieftain; she plans to marry him once she's Queen. But then, thanks to her mean aunt Penarwan, Riemmelth is denied the queendom, married off instead to Oswy, younger brother of the king of Northumbria, Cumbria's former enemy. So, seething with rage and passion, hitherto-pure Riemmelth melds with Elidir secretly (on the greensward) before the journey to Northumbria--where her lost virginity is sure to be a nuptial problem. What to do? The answer comes in the look-alike person of longlost cousin Arianrhod, a virgin who's easily persuaded to understudy. And though Oswy's a bit puzzled by the bedroom inconsistencies, he is considerate, if caustic--and a rousing lover--so Riemmelth slowly adjusts to her new home. She suffers from the murderous mischief of a rival; she confronts the giant Penda (""an oak tree walking""), fighting him in a knight's disguise. . . and then slipping into a King Kong/Fay Wray-style liaison. There's a final settling of scores, with cousin Arianhod, now a priestess of the Goddess, dying in secret happiness. And, after the bloody demise of Penda (father of Riemmelth's unborn child), there's a surprising reunion for Elidir and Riemmelth. Despite the nomenclatural lumber: an ancient-Britain romance that joggles along briskly--with intrigue, dark deeds, and an agile heroine.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's