Kaplan (coauthor of the lavish Amazon adventure Black Orchid, 1977) seems to be working on a speciality in tropical novels, with his newest documenting the busy history of the city of Miami. The author journeys to the clear waters, coral reefs, and mangrove jungles of Biscayne Bay in the company of a middle-aged widow from up north, Clara Reade, and her puny son, Harry. Around the turn of the century, the Reades move into the dilapidated house where Clara's parents were murdered by Seminole Indians. While she gets to know the handful of rugged souls who've come south to tame America's last frontier, Harry grows healthy tending the family orange groves. Clara, who will become Miami's ""Founding Mother,"" makes a deal with the Florida railroad baron, F. Morrison Wheeler, bringing the iron horse to Biscayne Bay, and hordes of tourists to a posh new hotel designed by Carlisle de Beaupre. The years tumble by and Miami grows apace--despite the Spanish-American War, a yellow-fever epidemic, and lots of squalid urban development. Harry falls in love with a Seminole girl and crusades against the destruction of the Everglades; Clara spreads herself too thin financially, then has a falling out with Wheeler over the railroad's monopolistic hold on the city. But in the end, Clara endures--and her city flourishes, sprawling ever onwards. Chock-full of interesting Florida frontier lore and throbbing with appropriately steamy atmosphere; but the characters here remain pallid shadows against the vivid landscape, making the novel nicely embellished but uncompelling.