In this earnest family tale, Margretta Van Dyck sloops up the Hudson in 1740 to the village of Badenswyck, where she is to tutor the children of Dominie Hardenbroeck, her dead father's friend. But the Dominie is an austere stick who serves the interests of the feudally oppressive Van Baden family; Margretta, soon wearying of her straight-laced life, is strongly attracted to nice Stephen Warner, a mere tenant farmer. And, despite the Hardenbroecks' efforts to match Margretta with a stiff-necked lawyer, she marries Stephen with happy results--though she can never convince her Hudson-loving husband to move to ""free"" land. (Also, they are sadly childless.) Then, however, comes that day--and night--when Margretta is summoned to the Manor House to repair lace. . . and finds herself heated to passion with young Lord Nicholas Van Baden during a mighty thunder storm. Nine months later-behold!--the birth of baby Paulus, who will be Stephen's favorite, even though he will later father two others of his own and guess at Paulus' paternity. Meanwhile, violence begins to simmer as tenant farmers organize to right wrongs, becoming the rebels known as ""levelers"": Stephen becomes somewhat of a tenant leader, following that hero of the disaffected farmers, William Prendergast--who's later arrested, condemned to death, and given a reprieve by King George. And events surrounding Prendergast's rescue-attempt tragically affect the Warners: in Stephen's absence an eviction notice is served; young Paulus is killed; and mostly-rotten Nicholas gets Margretta's plea for help too late. (Chastened, he helps the Warners in 1766 by offering free land in the northern valley.) Worthy research on colonial turmoil in the Hudson Valley region, but it's dangled loosely after a diligent-yet-plodding domestic plot-machine.