A smooth domestic period romance, set in the 19th-century English countryside and eased along with Bennett's soft-slippered narration. Jesse Calladine, heir to the Calladine farm at Almongate, weds lovely Johanna. Alas, on his very wedding day, Emily Metcalfe, the ex-servant who some time back introduced Jesse to sex, spitefully casts aspersions on his virility. . . with such effect that not only is the wedding night a fizzle, but for months afterward the marriage is unconsummated. Johanna will become pregnant, however, by cousin Tattan--and Jesse finds out. So it will be nearly two decades before bitter, disillusioned Jesse and aloof Johanna will re-admit their love. Meanwhile, however, Jesse's impotence is cured (chiefly by his rage), and the pair produce five daughters. (Jesse would prefer sons, of course.) And the novel's second half concerns the fortunes of the Calladine daughters: sensible Anna will rebel against the useless lives of most well-off women; Winsome--pretty, vain, strangely sly--will die in a bizarre if romantic drowning; and the eldest, Beulah, will be cruelly mistreated by Jesse and will be momentarily miserable when she learns that her true love Richard is the illegitimate son of father Jesse. What Beulah won't learn until the happy ending, of course, is that her real father isn't Jesse at all. . . . Pleasant.