A big, blowsy Civil War saga, jollied up with squashy sex, sadism, and war atrocities. Yankee gal Jemma is the leading lady who marries--against her family's wishes--handsome Southerner David. The pair travel to England where David is angling for Confederate aid, but return to Camelot, the family plantation ruled, in a fashion, by two women--David's beautiful mother Celeste; and ""Merlin,"" a lovely black slave who has been raised ""white."" Celeste is cruel, Merlin noble and ruthless, and David is harboring, unbeknownst to Jemma, a full-blown tendency toward s/m romance. Just after Jemma is gleefully beaten black and blue, David is conveniently killed, a Northern admirer of Jemma's is rescued and hidden, and hatreds seethe--just before the arrival of Sherman, an event for which the reader can hardly wait. Ugly Yanks rape and burn, so Jemma and Merlin and her children finally stumble north--Jemma to Wed her faithful friend, Merlin to train blacks for spreading freedom's word. The story swings fairly soon into one lubricious spectacular after another, with subtle transitions like ""The scents of July hit her"" lumping things along. And sure enough there's that inevitable birthing scene: ""Naomi, you get water heating. Lots of it."" Wilted wisteria.