Books: Royal Rhubarb

MERCHANT OF THE RUBY (447 pp.)—Alice Harwood—Bobbs-Merrlll ($3.50).

Once upon a carefree time, escapists could pick up a historical novel confident of finding a simple mixture of sword play and midnight love. Nowadays, as part of the now fashionable pedantry that corrodes everything from highbrow poetry to lowbrow science fiction, the historical novel is often as minutely researched as a Ph.D. thesis. Merchant of the Ruby, a fearsomely thorough drenching in the 15th Century Wars of the Roses, is a prime example. Readers of the Merchant need a refresher course in history, an elaborate...

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