by DOUGLAS MALCOLM
Dallasification. That's how the London press describes the process by which the staid institution of British royalty has metamorphosed into a soap opera followed slavishly by millions. This vast market cannot have been far from Charles Templeton's mind when he began The Queen's Secret, but most royalists will be disappointed. Templeton has elected to set his novel in the near future, when the throne is occupied by a monarch named Mary III. Chuck and Di or for that matter educated Eddie - do not even get an honourable mention. Reading the Queen's Secret, as a result, is like tuning into Dallas expecting to be entertained by J.R.'s skulduggery and funding only a cast of strangers.
Templeton's inspiration was the 1982 invasion of Queen Elizabeth's bedroom by an unemployed labourer. In Templeton's racier version Queen Mary, who has been trying to have a child, is raped by the invader. The legitimacy of her unborn child is of crucial importance. Her sole heir, Princess Victoria, wants to marry a man who is American, Roman Catholic and, worst of all, divorced. Before the crown is put in too much peril, however, Templeton wraps up things with a bang, literally.
The Queen's Secret abounds in lore about British monarchy that is passed off as inside information but has the stale sir of too much research. The characters behave according to time-honoured stereotypes two ambitious journalists seems a trifle excessive and their sexual encounters owe a considerable debt to Harlequin. Templeton writes passably well, but his entrepreneurial aspirations are greater than his literary ones.