An 18th-century tale in which Miss Lofts bides briefly in three social strata -- the rural English yeomanry, gentry, and the urban French/English nobility -- and she keeps her several narrators and central personalities afloat and intact in ali. This is mainly the story of mother love of tigress proportions in the frailest vessel of the times -- an impoverished French lady who is cruelly put upon throughout her life which is lonely and ""unprotected."" When Mme. Isabella de Sevigny, whose father had been executed in the Revolution, comes to Nethergate -- the manor house of weak Jack Franklin and callous Lady Rosaleen, her cousin -- not only is she eased into domestic service but is impregnated by the son and heir. After that and before the arrival of baby Annabelle, there's a forced marriage to a brutal brother of the housemaid Pratt. From then on, after an inordinately interested female doctor removes husband Pratt by poison, Isabella fights her way up -- housekeeping for widowed Jack, teaching, taking in lodgers and finally gambling her paltry all in French emigre society to marry off Annabelle to money. Poor Isabella loses her wits at the close but via a Loft-y deus ex machina (out of desperation, one suspects) it all ends happily. Tea and afghan fare.