The author of Susquehanna (1984) and Catch the Wind (1987) offers up another wooden romance, this one set among the North Carolina Jewish aristocracy during the 30's and 40's. First cousins Lauren Jacobson and Charlee Mortimer were raised as sisters, shuttling between Lauren's poor but respectable home and Charlee's Randolph Springs mansion. Lauren, a meek but brainy blonde, learns early to defer to the wishes of her younger, more spirited cousin, even keeping quiet as Charlee experiments with sex and charms Lauren's few boyfriends away. When Charlee graduates from high Scho near the end of the Depression (which has nearly mined Lauren's family but hardly touched Charlee's), she is sent off to a New York finishing school and soon marries her roommate's rich, handsome brother, Bruce Fields. Lauren, meanwhile, goes off to college and, after an embarrassingly long fallow period, at last marries the engaging Dr. David Bernard. While Charlee's apparently spectacular marriage is destroyed by her discovery that Bruce is homosexual, virtuous Lauren enjoys life in Chapel Hill with a hard-working husband, a scholarly career, and the ensuing arrival of three children. The onset of WW II turns the tables once again, however, as David enlists, is stationed in New York, and engages in a fling with sexy Charlee. Nine months later, Charlee gives birth to a son; and at the war's end, when Charlee, now a widow, dies of cancer, David and Lauren learn that she has willed her son's custody to them. Guilt-ridden, David confesses the boy's paternity to his wife. Faced even after her death with Charlee's devastating sexual power, Lauren manages to swallow her pride one last time for the sake of David's child, and all live contentedly, if not passionately, ever after. Plodding, uninspired prose contrasts sharply with the era's inherent real-life drama.