Gregory rings down the curtain on her Lacey family trilogy (begun with Wideacre and continued in The Favored Child) in breathlessly dramatic form, offering devotees of historical romance a heroine who's heads above the usual drabs of the genre. This time on center stage is Sarah, product of the wretched marriage between Julia and Richard Lacey, abandoned to gypsies as a baby (and known as Meridon to the Romany tribe that raises her) so that Wideacre might be free of the Lacey curse forever. At 15, she and her foster sister join a traveling show, with Sarah riding bareback and Dandy introducing England to the wonders of the trapeze; but when Dandy falls to her death, Sarah runs away, miraculously ending up again at Wideacre. In the hands of trustee James Fortescue and foreman Will Tyacke, the estate has become an agricultural commune. Both men expect the harshly reared Sarah (whom they immediately accept as the lost heir) to have sympathy for the poor, and thus to continue the experiment. But Sarah, empty and bitter over the loss of both her natural family and adoptive sister, sets a course toward disaster, affiancing herself to Lord Perry Havering, a degenerate gambler completely under the thumb of his domineering mother. The marriage is finalized while Sarah is in the throes of typhus fever, and after she recovers, it's to find Perry using the deed to Wideacre at the gaming table. Fortunately, Will Tyacke turns up to help Sarah win back the title; and before the dawn breaks, Will and Sarah are riding back to Wideacre for a utopian socialist happily-ever-after. The circus detail early on is as good (if not better) than that in Gary Jennings' Spangle, and the heroine beguiles even as readers ache to box her ears. In short, then, no letdown for series fans here.