In contrast to Trollope's previous novels--in which romantic and familiar contretemps vibrate to the worst of times (the Boer War in The Steps of the Sun, 1984; the battle of Waterloo in Eliza Stanhope, 1979; etc.)--here the setting is a quite perfect, contemporary, sentimental abstract of an English village, gentry-dominated, and with archetypical inhabitants. But the village is about to experience an aberrant ripple--at the epicenter of which is a scandalous lesbian affair. Beautiful Alice Jordan, married to mildly boring Martin, and mother of three young children, was amazed to find herself bursting into tears at the prospect of moving into the ever-so-desirable village of Pitcombe--with its stone houses, little river, and Sir Ralph's estate ""looking down on it all with feudal benevolence."" But Alice's impossible depression continues, in spite of the village, and the concern of mother-in-law Cecily--gardener extraordinary and author, an exhilarating contrast to Alice's telly-watching, grievance-collecting mother (and probably the reason Alice married Martin). Enter Clodagh, daughter of Sir Ralph, adored by the children, welcomed by Martin. Red-haired, arrogant, funny, and gay (in both senses of the word), Clodagh swings wide in Alice the gates of feeling. Eventually the two lovers' affair is revealed--to predictable excitations of rage, grief, and bewilderment all around. A hard--working vicar and a shrewd spinster offer some help and a moral edge; but it's Alice, who, after years of being emotionally exploited by others, of being ""beholden""--even to Clodagh, who has been ""waving a wand"" above Alice's renaissance--moves toward independence and selfhood. Affected family and friends, wracked to the core, have some revelations of their own. Despite some solemn musing on the freeing or hobbling aspects of passionate love, Trollope's latest is quite a cheerful experience--full of keen appreciations of children (three tangy personalities here), cherished bright eccentrics, and clever, funny chatter from generally attractive people.