Washington, a masculine city, tends to underestimate the personal--and political--influence of its belles and grandes dames. Daniels, as ever, here tries to set the balance right. The story starts with the catty ladies of Mr. Lincoln's Washington, continues speedily through the Mauve Decade and beyond, to linger on FDR's lifelong relationship with Lucy Mercer and the friction it caused with his wife. Daniels collates the available sketchy data, mainly from circumspect memoirs, but he tells us nothing very new. FDR was at least ""emotionally involved"" with Lucy Mercer: nothing more certain is known. The overwhelming point is that all of the people involved--the principals and their numerous acquaintances--were so perfectly discreet that even Daniels, who was briefly press secretary at the time of FDR's death and who is a sometime historian of Washington, most recently, The Time Between the Wars (1966), never even heard of Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd until after her death. From Daniels we learn that Lucy was elegant whereas Eleanor was stately: the President, it seems, was devoted to both.