Notorious purports to tell the story of Brianna de Beauchamp, a character from one of Henley's previous novels, whose budding romance with Wolf Mortimer entangles her in the intrigues between Edward II, his wife Isabella, and their respective lovers.
Unfortunately, the romance ends up taking a back burner to the political intrigue. Normally I wouldn't mind this, but in Notorious the intrigue seems to be more an excuse for Henley to repeatedly call Edward II 'unnatural' because he was gay. (I kid you not: if I had a nickel for every instance of 'unnatural' in this book, I'd be down at the local coffee shop buying a latte or five.) Now it's true that homophobia was universal in 14th century England, but it's also true that homosexuality wasn't talked about as much as it is now, nor was it considered the ultimate evil that these characters seem to feel it was. Edward II was unpopular, but much of that is due to his views on taxation and the power of the commons. Henley overestimates the contemporary interest in Edward's private life and all but ignores the policies and acts that in reality led to the rebellion.
There's also a strain of hypocrisy in this book which (to be honest) I didn't notice until another reviewer pointed it out. On second reading, though, it's blatantly obvious: Isabella's grasping, greedy, power-mad lover Roger de Mortimer is a hero, but Edward's grasping, greedy, power-mad lover Hugh Despenser is a villain. Yet they act exactly the same, both in real life and in this book. So why is Mortimer heroic but Despenser a villain? Because Mortimer was committing adultery with a woman instead of a man? Or is Roger de Mortimer a hero simply because he's the brother of the ostensible heroine's love interest? If so, that's sloppy writing, especially given the historical facts.
You may be wondering by now what happened to Brianna, the ostensible protagonist. I was wondering that myself. Her story is pushed off the pages as the struggle between Edward and Isabella and their camps takes centre stage. The relationship between Brianna and Wolf and her feelings about both him and the man she was pre-contracted to aren't fully developed. I didn't get the sense that the attraction the two of them obviously felt for each other developed into love: Henley doesn't show enough of their budding relationship, and every time I thought she would begin to develop it she goes back to the Edward-Isabella story (throwing a few 'unnaturals' in for good measure). I think that if a story is supposed to be about two people, the story should be primarily about them, not about those around them.
Finally, and this again is something other reviewers have mentioned, Henley calls the method of Edward II's torturous death "ingenious" in the epilogue. I hope to God above that Ms. Henley didn't mean it the way I read it. If so - my heavens, how offensive.