In this second novel, a return trip deep into the dark heart of southern family life, Bosworth (Almost Innocent, 1984) is the best of guides. She knows her territory from first kiss to last chance, never bypassing ugly truth or swerving to avoid unexpected passion. Rory Cade, the middle of three daughters in a well-off Catholic family in Louisiana, has watched her hypochondriac mother die and her handsome father slip into an alcoholic trance. Along the way, there was, briefly, a young and beautiful stepmother whom Rory admired, but that episode ended badly, only compounding her family's sense of its own tragedy. Now, it seems that the only shining spot in Rory's life is Johnny Killelea, the handsome, reckless Tulane dropout who has the power to lift her right out of her own tragic soul. ``Never marry an Irishman'' was her grandmother's counsel, but Rory is plenty willing to forgo grandma's advice for Johnny's sake. It hits her hard, then, when Johnny ends up married to her older sister, Jane Ann, instead. It's billed as a marriage of convenience--pregnant Jane Ann needs a husband, draftable Johnny needs a deferment to avoid Vietnam--but for Rory it marks the beginning of new truths about love and life. Slowly, she starts to feel her way out of the dark cloud that seems to hover over the Cade household. Things are going to change for her. And, somehow, we know, she'll emerge from it all with a great deal more grace and truth than another currently popular young Irish southern belle. Fiddledeedee. Not a lot of levity here, but Bosworth never slips into melodrama either. Her writing is strong and affecting--her images stay with us like a dream we remember long after the tears on the pillow have dried.