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Third volume in Stubbs' Howarth family saga, this competent period swatch (18151830) lacks the revolutionary zip--industry, Luddites, sedition--of The Ironmaster (1981). William Howarth, brother of wild Charlotte (transported to Australia), is new undisputed king of Wyndendale Valley--devoted husband of gentle Quaker Zelah, father of seven daughters, ""pleasantly bullying, with the tone of a man who treats everyone as his equal but reminds them they are net."" But William meets his match in ability and stubborn pride in ""The Cornishman"": young engineer Hal Vivian, hired on to exploit a flooded mine property, who creates ""King Billy""--a mighty, wondrous four-story pumping machine. And, as William's respect (alternating with a hurt pride) grows for Hal, so unfortunately does the love of William's daughter Anna for the young engineer. Why unfortunately? Because it turns out--in a classic pop-dynasty contrivance--that Hal is William's illegitimate son (see The Ironmaster). William is delighted; the lovers are miserable; Anna sails for India for missionary Quaker work. But then Charlotte miraculously ghosts back from Australia--joining her maverick son Ambrose (who's printing a labor-oriented newspaper) and educating young niece Mary to life and letters. And, before both Charlotte and her snappish sister-in-law Alice expire, there'll be an inevitable pairing (Mary and guess-who) and the birth of an additional heroine for the series--Philomena. Lots of domestic rushing-about, then, with less adventure than Stubbs at her best; but, thanks to well-researched machinery like awesome King Billy and a chuffing train-engine (William and Hal build a railroad), this is a smooth, easy track for followers of the above-average Howarth saga.

Pub Date: Dec. 28th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's