Readers of The Drums of Time (1980) may wonder how the brood of crafty Lambeth slum-dweller Leo Beckman--antique shop-owner Holly, construction laborer Maury, and jailbird Ritchie--rose so quickly to the pinnacles they're at in this sequel. Holly's an art expert, Maury's a wealthy urban builder, and Ritchie's an international dealer in art forgeries and fakes! No matter: they're all embroiled again in a lively lather of domestic free-for-alls. In 1933, to all four, including rapscallion Leo, love walks in. Holly, widow of poet Christopher (who died in a fire lit by Ritchie) and mother of teen-age Chris, is now wed to kind partner Kennedy King--but she's about to have a fling with gorgeous American dancer Peter Freeman. Maury, a bachelor, becomes a knight in armor for frightened Ruth, imprisoned in their house by jealous Ritchie, who's arrived back from his graduate course in mobster crime in the States. Ritchie, meanwhile, has also been having a satisfying affair with shrewd Madeline, daughter of his chief forger in Paris. And Leo's choice from the old neighborhood is a mighty-muscled Salvation Army lass, Cissie, who whips him into shape, knowing how to ""react vigorously to wickedness but go light on recriminations."" But while all the Beckmans thus wriggle in Cupid's stranglehold, Molly's professional rep is about to unravel like her marriage: she unwittingly sells forged paintings, thanks to Ritchie's London/Paris network, through which he is making a sibling-rivalry killing. So Holly, diverted from Peter, does her own sleuthing with virtuoso blackmail and help from Maury. There's gunfire, Ritchie is routed (but not for good, surely), and lovers pair off--except for Holly, who returns to her solidly loving husband and faces the coming era of war with fear and love as son Chris eyes a future as an airplane pilot. Although the copious art-dealing info is a bit heavy for all the gossipy bustle, Stirling's fans will not be disappointed: the fun, as always, is textured, comic, and tender.