17th century England is a convincing background for a first novel with equally believable characters and a story of sustained interest in their lives and circumstances. Annie Warne, the heroine, is bound out to service at the age of fourteen to the manor house of Attleborough in rural Norfolk. The head of the household, Sir Francis Bickley, is a self-made man who has made a fortune as a draper, bought an earl's home, and (through his support of Charles II) earned a title. His efforts to turn his merchant family into landed gentry through training and adventitious marriages has cast a shadow over all their lives, especially over that of his grandson, Francis Bickley III, who has been crippled in a youthful hunting accident. The young servant girl and the crippled boy become friends in childhood, grow up together, and fall in love--a love that to both of them is obviously hopeless. Neither of them is free to leave the manor, and Annie sees Francis enter into a loveless arranged marriage and she herself marries a footman, Tom Davy. As the years go on, Annie becomes the mainstay of the houshold, raises the children of the man she has always loved, watches the family fortunes crumble after the death of the first baronet, and marries Francis after the death of his second wife. Through the situation she has chosen, the author is able to deal with several kinds of love relationships, and does so with an emotional authority which is astonishing in view of the lack of sexual detail she employs. The result is an interesting, skillful, and fully mature book.