A red-elbows-and-chapped-hands New Zealand saga in which a young English Ã‰migrÃ‰ waif is catapulted from hardship to relative ease, then dropped to hardship again, and tangles with a trio of lugubrious males before true love comes down the pike. Among the three gormless men Ceci contends with: Reg Bowen, who plucks her from Immigration at 15, rattles her bones on a wagon that bangs her into bleak High Country, shoots her little dog, and sires Ceci's daughter Olwen; Reg's glowering old father, who, after Reg takes off from the family's ratty sheep-raising holding, marries Ceci, and then, discovering she's not a virgin, conveniently hangs himself; and Calvin Laird, Ceci's second husband and wealthy owner of ""Hexham."" Handsome Calvin, who won't consummate the marriage (never mind why), amuses himself by chasing poor Jock, Reg's idiot brother in Ceci's care, with a whip. But Calvin does love Olwen, whom he believes is the daughter of old Bowen--he does, that is, until Reg claims fathership. Both Jock and Calvin will die violently. The widow Laird loses Hexham, and then it's back to mud and toil--this time in the mining West Country. Olwen, sent to England, returns to find her mother destitute, and after a second trip, claims her birthright and a father. Ceci opens a pub, finds an admirer and a new husband in the midst of near-starvation and the miseries of a miners' strike. However, throughout she's never forgotten Ginger Nolan, the soul of kindness met long ago, but whose wife doesn't die soon enough to prevent Ceci's latest marriage. By the close, though, all's well. Awful men but entertaining demises--still, perhaps just too much dismal slogging in mud-caked skirts even for readers of bootstrap romantic sagas.