Saranne Albright, an insufferably nice girl indeed, redeems a misunderstood ""bad boy"" in traditional good-woman fashion in this mildly exciting but long-drawn-out period piece set in 1917. Saranne, the latest addition to the roll call of Norma Johnston heroines, is a scion of the Sterling and Albright clans, whose exploits filled four earlier Johnston books. The bad boy is Paul Hodge, a loner suspected of everything from theft to arson. When the high school literary society decides to stage The Merchant of Venice, do-gooder Saranne convinces Paul to play Shylock as a way of bringing him out of his shell, then mediates between him and his teenage persecutors, incidentally falling in love with him. The plot thickens several degrees when Aunt Tish the famous writer, newly widowed in the War, arrives from London with her distraught young daughter and throws herself into the play's direction. An endless series of social gatherings, family conferences, tension-filled rehearsals, and emotional crises intervene before we reach the denouement: Paul is put on trial for attempted murder, the deep dark secret of his past is revealed, and the stuffed shirts of West Farms, New York, are properly chided for their attitude towards illegitimacy. The attempted metaphor with The Merchant of Venice is a strained one and the profusion of characters sometimes threatens to choke the plot. Series readers will want to meet this new generation of the Sterling family saga--although those who have read Glory in the Flower will see the end coming a mile off.