Henley’s 16th dish of romance (A Year and a Day, 1998, etc.) tells of commoner Bess Hardwick’s life from ages six to forty as she rises from poverty to become Queen Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting and to make a spectacular marriage to the richest lord in England, all the while taking full advantage of the period’s sexy freedoms. Henley’s faithful know what to expect: rapid storytelling, high passions, rich description, and no stinting on bedtime thrills. On Bess’s deflowering by William Cavendish (“ ‘Oh my God, she murmured with breathless admiration . . . “You look like your stallion.’ ‘That’s exactly how I feel—rampant!’—) or to her initiation into the enwilding joys of cunnilingus with the devilishly besotted Shrewsbury (“Her laugh was sultry. She knew he was mad in love with her and ready to give her the moon and the stars”). Bess Hardwick, the publisher tells us, is based on a real-life figure who indeed rose to towering prominence as a descendant of the Plantagenets, whose blood was more royal than the Tudors” and whose temper was just as fearsome: ‘’ ‘You aren’t just a devil,’ she panted furiously, ‘you are Lucifer himself!—” Written in reckless, slamming prose that mirrors its redheaded heroine’s blazing tantrums.