As ""Pamela Bennetts,"" she writes medieval historicals. As ""Margaret James""--gothics like Marionette. And now here's ""Helen Ashfield,"" a good solid source of period-costume soap opera--circa 1807, London. Urchin Bess Hathaway is coolly seduced and patronized by that gambling fool Sir Charles ""Beau"" Barron (a chum of Beau Brummell). But then Bess becomes pregnant and Charles discards her, so our heroine vows revenge and begins to pile up chips. With the help of simple new husband Fred, she buys and operates a chain of brothels. And after some tribulations--her baby will be stillborn, poor Fred expires--Bess weds the Earl of Crayford, thus becoming able to meet Charles on his own turf: Charles' timid wife Adelaide will shoot herself when she receives a note from Bess about Charles' philandering. And when Bess becomes wealthy thanks to the death of husband #2, she ""buys"" Charles as a husband (he's been losing at the tables), bearing him a son. Still, with all the fussing and cussing and bedroom violence, there will be flights and misfirings before the cessation of hostilities. Serviceable rags-to-riches costume drama--but don't expect the inventive spookiness of this author's ""Margaret James"" books.