By Tina Jordan
Updated December 14, 2007 05:00 AM

Books about fiery Queen Elizabeth I abound, but few have so carefully plumbed her tricky relationship with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Though he was one of her favorite subjects, he was not, Gristwood shows, a mere plaything, but a serious thinker and statesman. In Elizabeth & Leicester, Sarah Gristwood examines the murder of Leicester’s first wife, Amy — a scandalous event that left the court wondering about Elizabeth’s possible involvement — and tries to settle, once and for all, the question of whether the two ever had sex. Gristwood turns dense, occasionally stodgy history into a lively read. A-