With young Sir Hugh off fighting for the King, his mother Lady Burnett dead from the shock of a visit from Roundhead troops, and the aged steward passing quietly away soon afterwards, John Colepepper the kennelman is left in charge of Madingley. His son Gil is concerned solely with saving the famous Madingley hounds (their original sire was a gift from Queen Elizabeth) from the enemy, and about half way through he does sneak into their encampment to rescue the prime stud that a soldier had carried off. Gil's greatest challenge though comes toward the end when he hides in an underground tunnel with ten of the hounds -- who are saved only after the hunchbacked turnspit Simon, whom Gil had always suspected of disloyalty, sacrifices his life. Meanwhile the kitchen wing is burned down by drunken deserters, whereupon the servants (wenches and all) take over the family's clothes and quarters. Weir never gives a clue (or a care) as to what all the fighting is about, but her slickly accomplished depiction of the plight of the low born heroes back home has its own vivid tension and color. . . if you can accept Gil's duty to the royal hounds as sufficiently compelling to start with.