A grab bag of romance, ambition, and hospital intrigue set in WW II Australia, by the author of The Emerald Valley (1986), Oriental Hotel (1985), and The Hours of Light (1981). Alys Peterson is raised in swank comfort in a suburb of Melbourne; Tara Kelley is brought up by a good-hearted whore in a Sydney slum. Both flee untenable situations at home and end up in the frontier town of Darwin when a Japanese bombing raid ushers in the war. When Alys, a Red Cross driver, is herself gravely wounded, new friend Tara (who shares her rare blood-type) is instrumental in helping her pull through. Alys is sent home to recuperate; meanwhile, Tara is taken on at the medical base--and is soon smitten with handsome Richard Allingham, an overly gentlemanly doctor. When their small-scale romance threatens to derail, the resourceful Tara stages a seduction and then a fake pregnancy--with the result that the dutiful doctor agrees to marriage (although he pines--rather vaguely--for self-assured Alys). Then Tara gets pregnant for real, and is sent ""home"" to live with Richard's stiff parents in smothering suburban comfort. At war's end, when Richard shows no sign of leaving the service (because he really loves Alys?), Tara lets old friend (and undervalued suitor) Sean Devlin convince her to leave babe with the in-laws and launch the singing career she's always craved. Tanner marches her paperdoll characters through a traffic jam of subplots and mismatched pairings. Rivalries are oddly civil, the ending's a slight surprise, but in all: standard-issue passions.