From the author of The Tiger's Woman and The Proud Breed: a fat, flossy, period romance (1813-31) set in England and Maryland, blatantly anachronistic in speech and outlook, with lots of births, upwardly-mobile crises, and interludes of velveteen sex. Alex Thaine of Gravesend, Kent, daughter of a kind but weak merchant father and a horrid mother, is closest to grandmother Virginia--from whom she learns good sense and herbal healing. And it's Virginia who arranges to send Alex to the Falconers--distant cousins on the Devonshire seacoast. Tomboy-ish, 15-year-old Alex is happy in the noisy, loving household, especially fond of cousin Rane--though unaware that he's beginning to be secretly, passionately in love. She even joins in, after some initial wariness, when she learns that the Falconers (and most of the villagers) are ""free-traders""--high-minded smugglers; and on one trek to a cave Alex helps to rescue an escaped American prisoner, Caleb Jennings from Baltimore. Then, however, Alex is summoned back to Kent to care for the motherless twins of her brother-in-law St. John (""Sinje"") Carrington, a widower who's off fighting Napoleon. Moreover, when Sinje returns from war with one arm and suicide on the mind, it's Alex who brings him around, reviving his interest in horse-racing and--mightily--in sex. So, loving the twins and fond of Sinje, Alex lives with him as his wife, though the Church forbids the match. But then, while Sinje is away gambling knowledgeably at the races, soulmate Rane comes a-calling; sex is inevitable; so is baby Morgan. . . and an anguished farewell. And eventually Sinje and Alex head for the New World with their best horses, arriving in Maryland: they breed thoroughbreds and run a pub--with help from old pal Caleb Jennings. Rane surfaces again, of course, now married to peculiar Claire; Alex is happy, loving Sinje; a big win buys a stud farm; the family's firm anti-slavery stand brings happiness to former slaves; the Sinje/Alex children are models. Still, there's some tragedy ahead. . . before Rane and Alex feather their own nest together. Sweet taffy romance--strung out interminably, with a sequel promised.