Jekel's historical research, evident in her previous novels (18th-century pirates' seaways in Sea Star, 1983; the Pacific Northwest in Columbia, 1986), now concerns the flora, fauna, industrial, agricultural, and demographic development of the delta country of Louisiana. The country's decidedly more vigorous than her characters, although a busy plot keeps them on the go. This is the saga of four generations of women, from 1786 to the 1920's, as they struggle for love, security, etc., but mainly love. First off, there's Olivia Doucet, raised on a lush bayou in a small cabin set on the rise in the swamp. She'll choose to marry outside her French Arcadian community, and her German husband, Joseph Weitz, and she will have twin boys, Samuel and Simon, as well as a future nun, Emma. There'll be a brief stay in New Orleans but a return to the bayou, where there will be a tragic kidnapping. The twin boys will not be reunited for years. Samuel will become a rich man and the lover of Cetisma, the black slave he'd emancipated. After his death, Cetisma, now manager and owner of a guest house, will have a second child, a daughter named Manon, fathered by a white lodger. Color and caste and all the depressing strictures concerning same rule the life and love of Manon, who will be a powerful New Orleans businesswoman. Her daughter, by Manon's faithless white lover, will have a bland marriage--thanks to Mother, who held her off from passionate love. So it's ``a muddy mess of uprooted hopes and drowned dreams.'' A workaday historical but embellished with bright portraits of indigenous animals and birds and brief historical notes. The promise here of sensational dross concerning slavery and forbidden sex may beckon from airport racks.