Gregory, author of five previous historicals with feminist twists (Wideacre, 1987, etc.), offers a contemporary psychological thriller that may prove to be a crossover hit. Reminiscent of Fay Weldon's novels of vanquished women (though with none of her biting wit and satire), Gregory's book is a tight little tale of a woman tormented by her family. Patrick Cleary has always loved the small house down the lane from his parents' farmhouse. When it finally comes on the market, his doting parents decide to buy it for him--with only one obstacle to their mutual enthusiasm, Patrick's young wife Ruth. Pleased with her career in journalism, not ready to start a family, and in love with their London flat, Ruth has no intention of moving. To manipulate an intelligent woman is not easy, but subtly crafted events begin to push the reluctant Ruth into an altogether new life. Suddenly laid- off, and ``accidentally'' pregnant, Ruth finds the country house her only option after the city flat, owned by her in-laws Elizabeth and Frederick, is sold off. Elizabeth, the Martha Stewart of mother-in-laws, controls all in her line of vision, including Patrick, who epitomizes the term ``mama's boy,'' leaving for Ruth the role of baby machine. Almost imperceptibly, country life turns creepy: Elizabeth is full of enthusiasm in decorating ``her'' little house; she's rapturous about the birth of ``her'' baby; and Patrick is ecstatic in his childhood home with Mummy and Daddy there to make decisions for him. After the birth of Thomas, the three conspire to purge Ruth from the scene altogether: They get her addicted to drugs and placed in a mental hospital, where she is forbidden to see her son. As Ruth finally realizes the unnatural state of affairs and reasserts her rights, the plot tumbles to its murderous and finally disturbing end. An unblinking portrayal of psychological slavery, deeply bizarre family ties, betrayal, and courage.