From British novelist and nonfiction author Miles (The Women's History of the World, 1989, etc.), an impressively researched fictional portrait of England's great queen (1533--1603) as emotionally high-strung, thirsty for love, and a martyr to her role. In the story of Elizabeth's artful dodging on the way to the throne -- coping with official ""bastardy,"" warring religious factions, power clashes around the ailing Henry VIII -- Miles faithfully, and in Elizabeth's narration with spirit, follows every alarm and flight: summons to the putrid, dying King; the sad decline of brother Edward VI; the dangerous policy excesses of elder sister Queen Mary; the nightmare days in the Tower in sight of a scaffold. At last Elizabeth is Queen, exultant, ""married to England."" At this moment the narrative begins to disappoint. For all her research and dutiful attention to world events, Miles tends to focus on Elizabeth's emotional rather than her intellectual life, scanting the political acumen that secured the throne, held off enemies abroad, and enabled England to prosper and colonize new worlds. Here, the monarch meets most crises by screaming and weeping -- and of course there is that Big Question always hanging in the air concerning the Virgin Queen: Was she or wasn't she? In this portrait, the Queen has a schoolgirl crush on a powerful noble sent to the block and is sexually aroused by the doomed husband of Catherine Parr (Henry's widow), but her true love (and sole recipient of the royal favors) is Robert Dudley, courtier, soldier, and intermittent Tower resident. In the meantime there are perpetual crises: the problem of Mary, Queen of Scots (never seen), the invasion of the Spanish Armada, religious persecutions, etc. But love brings the monarch's confessions to their highest pitch. Not great, but not trash either: romantic pseudo-history, weighty in size, scope, and ambition -- if not achievement.