South African novelist Burke chronicles in this ambitious historical saga the opening months of the Boer War, when in 1899 a band of angry and rebellious Boer farmers lay siege to the town of Kimberley, diamond capital of the world, surrounding the British garrison for four months, In a theatrical way, the book's varied cast of characters enact their personal dramas against the increasingly claustrophobic setting of a state of siege. Young, beautiful and high-spirited, Emma Stevenson finds herself trapped in Kimberley by the Boers' assault. Her battle-crazed husband Geoffrey, a British officer and military hero, loses his life in a reckless and insubordinate sortie against the Boers. This leaves Emma stranded in the company of her despotically hidebound and controlling snob of a mother, on the one hand, and her jealous and vituperative sister, on the other. Into Emma's stifling world enters one Bart Bannock, a character in the Harrison Ford mold, who awakens Emma sexually and increases her determination to escape the suffocating role of bereaved widow that her mother insists she play. For his part, Bart, a breeder of thoroughbred horses, sits by in impotent fury as the British or the Boers commandeer or steal his entire string, mindlessly sentencing some of the world's most illustrious champions to die in combat. Though he loses everything else, in the end Bart gets the girl, who renounces a lifetime of convention to join her fate to his. Unrealized in several important ways, mostly having to do with inadequate historical detail and a tendency of the author's literary ambitions to outstrip his technical powers, Kimberley is nonetheless a textured and evocative anatomy of a love affair. Effective characterizations and a strong dose of old-fashioned romance make this an absorbing and lively read.