Versatile novelist Rock now decants a full-bodied fermentation of that good stuff about the coronets, kind hearts, and gallant men and women who soldiered through World War I--only to witness the dissolution of English days and ways that would never be the same again. It's all stables, sherry tables, and bobbing servants in the beginning as Anthony Greville, 9th Earl of Stanmore, rides out with his friend, dashing young Fenton, in the summer of '14. Fenton, however, is caught in a domestic dither with the earl's son, Charles: high-struug Charles adores stunning Lydia, daughter of a neighboring tinned goods tycoon, and Fenton's considering her too. This ambitious lass eventually bags Charles, but he's fated to become a very injured casualty when war breaks out--a war that rapidly becomes a nightmare of mass carnage. During the agony of stalemated slaughter (battles are reported by journalist Martin, the earl's American cousin), each character is sorely tested. Fenton shows his mettle; the earl's daughter, Alexandra, plunges into front-line nursing and a lasting love; and once-wounded Charles, finally cracking under the strain of all the futile dying, shoots his young brother in the knee. At the close--a jump from 1917 to 11/11/20--Lydia is an international playgirl; Martin grieves for the death of his nurse wife; Fenton and family are off to posts abroad; Alexandra is in Canada; and Charles, on his home hillside, keeps vigil ""in case the men come back."" It all rolls along as smoothly as the credits announcing a grant from Mobil--a flawless simulation overlayed with a rich, not unpleasing, mahogany melancholy. Big budget.