Borrowing a page from Chaucer's and Boccaccio's book, Peter Bourne throws his characters into enforced company, where they tell stories to pass the time aboard, the Susan Constant, bound for the New World and Virginia in 1606. Their tales reflect English society rather than the settler's life before them, so that this is an English historical novel, not American, although Captain John Smith himself strides through the interscenes. Mr. Bourne's several tales serve as vehicles for background detail, description and authoritative dialogue which he relishes, but they are not particularly gripping. More absorbing than most are a tale of rapine and slaughter of Turkish women and a painter's story of a masked woman whose husband wants her painted in the nude. Nude and gorgeous she is, sitting for him daily, but will the young artist never see her face? This, the provender of a pretty dull crew, provides no real passion or inspiration, but respectable workmanship if not always respectable substance.