A diverting historical from Barraclough (The Rook's Nest, 1987; The Heart of the Rose, 1986) that easily rises to the top of her oeuvre--thanks to its evocative re-creation of London circa 1820 and the late-Romantic literary scene. To the city on the Thames comes Jane Banham, born and bred in Norfolk--but, after her father's death, thrust into the household of her mother's brother, the London merchant, Hal Stone. The city makes her think of her late mama, an actress disowned by her family, a woman with secrets Jane can only guess at. Happily, Uncle Hal takes a relaxed attitude toward his niece, which allows her to mingle on the fringes of the literary world, contribute her impressions of London to a new magazine, and fall desperately in love with Charles Fitzpercy--a young poet who possesses Keats' depth and Byron's panache, along with the standard troubled Romantic soul. All the while Jane chafes at the era's double sexual standard, yearning to form liaisons where she will; but when she admits her love for Charles, she's in for a shock--for he's, as they say, ""'so-so' or the other way inclined.'"" He's also her half-brother (by her mother), which comes out when a fortune teller spots their twin lockets. Unfortunately, Charles is killed, leaving Jane to mourn, and utlimately to marry an amiable friend of her uncle's. The homosexuality here makes this an unusual entry for the genre, but it's handled well, as is the heroine's forthright character. What gets top marks here, though, is Barraclough's Byron-obsessed London.