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Although not touted as a dynasty series, Carr's recent batches of period romance usually feature a heroine who is related--often circuitously--to the prima donna of the previous novel: here the lovelorn lass is Jessica Frenshaw, offspring of Dickon and Lottie (Knave of Hearts and Voices in a Haunted Room). And though Carr only occasionally tries to sort out the spaghetti tangle of Jessica's family tree, readers new to the series will be able to follow the adventures--with love tremors and family scandal--of yet another garrulous first-person narrator. While still a child, Jessica meets Romany hero Jake--authentically fitted out with earrings, guitar, and orange shirt. Jessica is enthralled; she tries to help Jake escape when he's being hunted for murder (the victim, it seems, was raping an innocent gypsy girl); and, thanks to Jessica's plea to Dickon, lake escapes hanging but is transported to Australia for seven years. . . just enough time to allow the child Jessica to plunge out of puberty. Meanwhile, we're also catching up with the doings of characters from the previous novels: there's a peek at Tamarisk, the illegitimate child of Jake and the recently deceased Dolly; charming Peter Landson, who rescues Jessica from a white-slavery den, weds Jessica's gentle niece Amarillys. Jessica herself now nobly marries nice, solid Edward Barrington--even though poor mill-owner Edward becomes an impotent invalid, crushed by Luddite-wielded machinery. Then back comes Jake, of course: he's really Sir Jake Cadorson with an estate in Cornwall! Soon he and Jessica are lovers--but this secret affair becomes known to someone else, someone who himself has a ghastly secret, known only to Jessica. (The two will trade secrecies.) Tamarisk, after causing her guardian, Aunt Sophie, to die of a broken heart, at last meets her ""Romany"" father. But. . . what's Jessica going to do about husband Edward? Never fear: Carr, who manipulates character and plot with a high and heavy hand, causes Edward to expire (suicide? murder?)--while Tamarisk, with that Romany temperament, seems a good bet for a star role in the next installment of this busy, sure-to-please saga.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1985
Publisher: Putnam