McCullough's Thorn Birds glory has levitated some recent duds (e.g., A Creed for the Third Millennium, 1985), and possibly that may be the case with this stiflingly coy little Cinderella fable (with a supernatural fillip) about how a meek, exploited ""spinster"" comes into her considerable own in a small pre-WW I Australian town. Thirty-three-year-old Missy, inconspicuous, flat of face and figure, lived in genteel poverty (in the house called ""Missalonghi"") with mother and aunt, who, like all over-the-hill women without males, were of no consequence to the large, wealthy Hurlingford family who owned the town of Byron (founded by Missy's great-grandfather Hurlingford after reading Childe Harold). The one kindly, quite beautiful and lively Hurlingford in Missy's experience is Una, new assistant at the library. It's Una who fires Missy's imagination with romance novels, and focuses the same on the stranger in town, rugged John Smith, who's secretly bought land in a lovely valley the Hurlingfords had forgotten. And if it hadn't been for Una, who knows if Missy would have had the courage to take revenge on snooty, patronizing cousin Amilia by delivering a dress decorated in manure? Needless to say, Missy routes the greedy, cruel Hurlingfords, acquires love and status, and raises from their hard times the lone ladies of Missalonghi. Paltry but harmless, and count on the name and heavy exposure.