By Melissa Rose Bernardo
Updated August 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Those who aren’t intimately acquainted with the British royal family circa 1800 could find Jane Robins’ subject — Caroline’s marriage to philanderer, first cousin, and future king George IV — a trial. But the London journalist has assembled a surprisingly easy-to-follow account of a woman whose alleged adultery garnered a Princess Di-worthy amount of press. If only Robins had relied less on the word-for-word reports of her media forefathers. When she allows her own voice to emerge — she says Caroline ”embodied the weaknesses but few of the strengths of a Jane Austen heroine” — The Trial of Queen Caroline sounds more like a sex-scandal saga than a history lesson. And that, to quote a recent celebrity defendant, is a good thing.

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