Rae's latest, the tale of a lass who breaks free from her gilded mansard, lacks the sense of closeted nastiness that gives Rae's novels (The Ship's Clock, 1993, etc.) their spine. Nonetheless, the author's potpourri prose artfully draws out camphor-potent scandal from some secret alcoves of turn-of-the- century Manhattan mansions. When she reads that her family's Fifth Avenue mansion is to be torn down, Maida Jardine recalls the events leading up to her departure from it on an atmospherically freezing night in February 1911. The youngest of six children, Maida feels oppressed by chilly Mother's stern regimens and social climbing, mysteriously unchecked by kind but distant Father. But then brother Jerome introduces her to the joys of tending little orphans at the Foundling Hospital. Mother, furious to learn of such low company, soon arranges a marriage for Maida to a horrid viscount (narrow face, small eyes, thoroughly ``vulpine''). Maida flees into February's storms after landing a possibly fatal haymaker on the viscount, who was ready to pounce in the night. Her subsequent adventures include work as an agent for the Children's Aid Society, taking orphans to Michigan (snow, awful food, and attempted rape); toil back in Manhattan, incognito, at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company (she's there for the Big Fire); and translating from German the lumpen works of a grandfather of dear, Pickwickian Mr. Schilling, who is certain his forebear left a clue to treasure within. Of course, in time the foxy viscount traps Maida; Mother moves in, and there's a parental showdown; Maida and the viscount star in a court trial; and secrets are aired in a paternal letter. Oh, yes, there's True Love too. Rae's narrative meanders on like an idle spillway, with her heroine moved too easily and predictably from point to point. It appears the author decided to rest on her oars this time.