Norah Lofts has an intriguing gift for spinning a fabulous tale- and making it credible as one reads. She creates her setting with intricate detail- and never more hauntingly than in her portrait of an exotic spice island plantation, owned by a rich planter, complete with every known luxury -- and haunted by a sense of fear and suspicion. To this plantation comes a girl, whose own past is out of a fairytale. An elderly nurse had smuggled her, as a baby, out from under her parents' eyes, when the Cromwellian forces threatened the royalists' castles. She had brought up the child in Ireland, knowing parrot fashion her name and lineage. But with the old nurse's death, the child, Julia, ran wild, and was rescued by an Irish sea captain, who took her home to a wife who grew to hate her and resent her. With her protector's death, Julia was put into an orphanage, then moved to a home for training maidens to be shipped out to the colonies as wives. But Julia's fate was different. Her ""husband"" was the idiot son of the rich planter. She was to be part of the elaborate curtain- and was to produce an heir, fathered by a cousin brought to the plantation for the purpose. The whole menage was ruled by fear and sadistic violence. And Julia- who had at last seen a man she could love- was a block to a long range plan. The ending has all the violence of mass murder in a Greek tragedy. But up to this point -- the story is holding and tantalizing reading. Norah Lofts has an established audience.