A familiar period romance with more salt and savor than usual. Marianne, daughter of a fisherman on the 18th-century North Devon preserves of Lord Thomas Eden, is subjected at the age of sixteen to a public flogging (the circumstances occupy 53 blood-clotted pages). She had observed Eden's smuggling operation and, worst of all, rejected his advances. With her father gone daft and her brother now Lord Eden's factotum, Marianne is packed off to London where she is alternately cosseted and exploited by her sister. The considerable bulk of the novel is concerned with a chance meeting between the lovely Marianne and Lord Eden and his pursuit of her. Thomas, however, is shaken by encroaching loneliness and wavering ego, by the dreadful results of a friend's sexual perversions, and, above all, by the cool self-possession of Marianne; gradually he comes down from his high tor of unpleasantness, matching Marianne's rising temperature. Harris takes her time with this implausible conjunction, lingering beside minor characters, creating cosy domesticities, and exploring motivations as if it all made sense. The first of a projected trilogy, so for those who like romantic packets with some ballast, now is the time to get on board.