The dropped threads of the enchanting The Hour Awaits (published about a year ago) are brought together again in a novel that defies description. An elusive charm, a subtle sophistication, combine with an intricacy of plot and play of character on character, to make this- for one reader anyhow- one of the high spots of the new season. Princess Victoria Babenberg -- her moment of disillusionment behind her and Professor Drury, her onetime lover, written off, is engaged to her cousin, Francois, Comte de Talloires et d' Annecy, but still clings to her newfound independence and embarks on a last adventure. That behind her, she returns to her beloved Schloss in the Tyrol, to Tante Sophie, and plans for her role as hostess to an oddly assorted group for Christmas. The time is 1921, when resentment against Italian possession ran high. Vicky had little in the way of material goods to bolster her pride as hostess, and the story of the brilliant facade of lost grandeur that she sustained is fascinating as a glimpse of a lost way of life. Then- with her dinner party a gastronomical triumph and a diplomatic disaster, the unexpected happens. An avalanche buries the castle -- and the Princess and her guests are condemned to virtual entombment. There have been other tales of similar disasters, notably Henry Morton Robinson's Great Snow, but here we have a situation which strips each of the guests, as well as members of the household, of pretense, and brings issues, major and minor, to a head. The central theme is resolved; the ""unfinished business"" persuades one to hope for yet another book in the offing. Not everyone's dish; but provocative for the discriminating.