What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY’s picks for book lovers include a new biography that dishes about the scandalous love life of England’s Edward VII.

Edward VII: The Prince of Wales and the Women He Loved; Catharine Arnold; St. Martin’s Press, 250 pp.; non-fiction

Victorian England: We know what that was supposed to mean — all priggish prudery and “we-are-not-amused” harrumphing. Except now we know it wasn’t all that, a point driven home by a new biography on the many women in the life of Queen Victoria’s heir, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII.

The portly pepperpot of a prince could hardly be considered sexy, even then, but being heir to a 900-year-old monarchy had its charms. And with little else useful to do for 50 years, thanks to one of the worst royal mothers ever, Bertie, as he was called, indulged his sensual tastes for women’s company, often in bed.

At his 1901 coronation, he even invited some of his royal concubines to sit in a pew in Westminster Abbey designated for “the King’s special ladies.” They didn’t call him “Edward the Caresser” for nothing.

Now comes Edward VII: The Prince of Wales and the Women He Loved to give us the 411 on these women. Prostitutes and good-time girls, actresses and aristocrats, socialites and social-climbers, all took a turn in Bertie’s bed, becoming famous, at least among the royal, titled and rich set, for being the Prince of Wales’ mistress.

His lovers included one of the first American “dollar princesses,” Jennie Churchill, Winston’s mum; pin-up beauty Lillie Langtry, the original Jersey girl; the “divine” Sarah Bernhardt, the bisexual French stage actress with an opium habit.

Bertie’s last mistress-in-chief, Mrs. Alice Keppel, was the great-grandmother of Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, the second wife of the current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, Bertie’s great-great-grandson.

USA TODAY says ***½ out of four stars. “Focuses deliciously on the women who shared the scandalously plentiful sex life of Queen Victoria’s eldest son.”

The Birdwatcher by William Shaw; Mulholland, 330 pp.; fiction

A police officer named William South on the southeastern coast of England discovers a body connected with his own violent childhood.

USA TODAY says *** stars. “An excellent read.”

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