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A galloping British mid-19th-century historical, full of bloodlines, snobbery, travel, fashion, and assorted ladies of flexible virtue--a kind of erotic update on Anthony Adverse. In 1839 young Lord James Farleigh seduces a Spanish widow in Madrid while his groom Tom Logan seduces her maid Clara: two simultaneous births ensue, the maid's baby dies, and the widow goes mad--so Farleigh, already betrothed back home, persuades Logan to marry the maid and raise Farleigh's byblow as his own son. Twenty years pass, and the hero is now Lord James' secret son Anthony ""Logan""--who is sent abroad after being discovered in a compromising position with Lord James' daughter Anne (Tony's unbeknownst half-sister!). Tony thus becomes English tutor to the children of a Belgian Grand Duke; he rises to the post of equerry; he has a hot affair with older-woman Claire (who turns out to be his stepmother); and, after a near-fatal duel with the Grand Duke's son, he flees to Paris--where his star rises at the court of Louis Napoleon. But, though the affair with Claire continues, Tony still incestuously pines for Anne--and, after one brief unhappy reunion with her, he starts roaming the world. There's a mission to Egypt for the Emperor (re misappropriated Suez funds), a brush with lethal fever in Panama, and a visit to San Francisco--where Tony winds up in bed with his real mother (yes, it's the mad Spanish widow, now madam at a brothel). Thus, finally learning the truth about his real parentage, Tony returns to England in time for Lord James' demise, inheriting the title and wedding his half-sister at last (who has already, years ago, given birth to Tony's son). A spicy romp, then, unoriginal and not quite tongue-in-cheek despite the ludicrous turn-of-events--but carried off with a modicum of vivid period description (cameos by such as Alexandre Dumas) and lively bedroom derring-do.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1981
Publisher: Wyndham/Simon & Schuster