Quill in hand, Honig has penned a self-conscious pastiche of the 19th-century novel of feverish romance and family secrets. Hero Ben McKinley is the familiar orphan, with a strain of madness in his secret past, who is loved by two women (one good, one wanton) and betrayed by his best friend. He also has a closemouthed guardian running true to form, while his dark background includes long shadows of his sainted mother (confined to a wheel chair) and his wild, unhinged father. And when Ben leaves his Long Island village to go off to fight in the Civil War near his ancestral home in Virginia, further gothic clichÃ‰s await--especially when he returns home at last. Only in the vivid battle scenes does Honig's affected period manner manage to transcend the formula storytelling. Elsewhere the stilted speech and pseudo-poetic inner monologues (""Yes, it was time, it was time; as if the resonance of our agony had finally reached the bowers of the mercies and widened their eyes"") curdle on the page and verge on parody. An odd excursion into preciousness and pretentiousness by an erratic writer at his best when writing, straightforwardly, about baseball.