Another of Belle's well-upholstered sagas (The Lodestar, 1989; Wintercombe, 1988)--this time the conclusion to the St. Barbe trilogy, set in 17th-century England. In 1685, the Catholic James II reigns over England, and Sir Alexander St. Barbe, the black sheep of his Protestant clan, has returned home to claim the Wintercombe, the family estate, as his rightful inheritance. He receives a less than enthusiastic welcome, however, from the assorted relatives living there under his recently deceased father's largess--vibrant young Cousin Louise from France, sent to England to escape the scandal of a recent love affair; poverty-ridden, weepy, Catholic Bab, an aunt by marriage, with her frivolous daughter, Amy, and wildly ambitious son, Charles; and Aunt Silence, the family matriarch who's been summoned to Wintercombe to soothe her relatives' chronically ruffled feathers. Re-ensconced in the place of honor, Alexander immediately sets out to inspire outrage, ordering Bab and her children to vacate Wintercombe by summer, teasing weak. willed Charles by flirting with Louise (whom Charles loves), and installing his illegitimate son in the mansion that Charles had hoped--until now--to inherit in Alexander's absence. Charles swears revenge, and soon finds the opportunity when the Protestant Duke of Monmouth attempts to overthrow the King, entangling half the St. Barbe clan, including Alexander, in his doomed effort. In the ensuing mop-up, Charles denounces his cousin as a traitor; but charismatic Alexander escapes conviction while Charles himself, who has been spumed by the St. Barbes for his betrayal, is imprisoned instead--leaving Louise and Alexander to marry and, one assumes, rule Wintercombe in peace. A civilized romance, most memorable for its vivid characters.