Last in an attractive English dynasty trilogy (The Passing Bells, Circles of Time), which began by drumming the Earl of Stanmore's kin through WW I and now sees another generation into WW II. By this time the principals of the previous novels have settled into their polished niches with various degrees of esprit. The Earl's son Charles, shattered psychically by the Great War, is now happy headmaster of Burgate School, an experiment in progressive education; and he marries theatrical designer Marion. Martin Rilke, the American cousin, has made his journalistic mark--and, now famous, will be broadcasting crises from Britain. Major General Fenton Wood-Lacey, father of those heavenly twins, Jennifer and Victoria, long a voice in the wilderness concerning Britain's preparedness, will now be wearily rallying his inadequate forces. Then--enter the new generation: Albert Thaxton, young brother of Martin's dead ex-housemaid wife, opts for a news career, becoming a crack foreign correspondent; Derek Ramsey, who as a boy escaped from a traditional birch-wielding school to Burgate, will be one of the RAF's heroic ""few""; Colin Ross, offspring of the Earl's daughter Alexandra (she's now in California, married to the family's former chauffeur), also flies for Britain. And, as for the Earl and wife Hanna, he has a bit of a stroke but recovers. . . just in time to toast all the family and ""gentle friends"" while Hanna picks her roses. Amongst all the manly, chewy, slangy talk about politics and war (with popping corks and glugging decanters), there's romance too, of course, with pairings both neat and satisfying: Thaxton and Jennifer; Derek and a Burgate hellion once known as ""the Pest""; Colin and the twins' sister Kate. Meanwhile, the ""lads"" provide enough stiff uppers to cast In Which We Serve--as some terse war action leads up to Dunkirk and grief for Kate. But, if basically familiar, this is highly reliable sherry-table and Finest-Hour fare--nicely warmed by a touch of very proper sentiment.