The fourth novel in Nelson's Honest Women series is set in Tennessee and begins in the mid-nineteenth century. In this story of two thorny marriages, the pioneer struggles of the protagonists in Nelson's sturdy first novel (Private Knowledge, 1990) have become obsessively interior as the men betray and the women agonize. Clara Lanier (daughter of Annie Bee, whose liberation took place in Pursuit of Bliss, 1992) is married to--and then separated from--Jourden Lanier, father of her four daughters (and of her stillborn son). Jourden's mother, Miss Evelina (her story alternates with episodes from Clara's career), was once Clara's admired teacher, but Evelina's love for her severe husband, Claude, has forced her to turn away from her son and his marriage. Jourden refuses Claude's choice of career; he wants to paint. Jourden also sleeps around, which splinters the marriage. There are flashbacks to first meetings, first darts of love, family deaths, births, and reunions, and people grieve in old houses haunted by memories. History intervenes now and then (Jourden is overseas in WW II). By the end, Clara makes her peace with a chastened Jourden, and Evelina leaves a tender legacy. Nelson's previous protagonists have also anguished, but with a shade less inner posturing as they confronted hard times and rough weather--and men solidly worth worrying about. Soggy and not up to Nelson's others.