Sheldon changes his best-selling formula a little bit this time around--with an episodic, 1883-1975 family saga (instead of an all-glossy contemporary setting) and a career-heroine who's quite a monster (instead of a damsel-in-distress). Part #1, which is awfully reminiscent of Alan Scholefield's recent The Stone Flower, follows poor young Scots lad Jamie McGregor to the South African diamond mine-fields--where he is promptly cheated out of his great diamond-find by shady dealer Salomon Van der Merwe. So Jamie vows vengeance on Van der Merwe--and, with help from an abused Van der Merwe servant, he steals a fortune from the Van der Merwe diamond fields, unlovingly impregnates Van der Merwe's daughter Margaret, and drives the old man to suicide. But, though Jamie has planned to ignore pregnant Margaret, he can't resist his baby son--so there's a loveless marriage, the birth of daughter Kate, the murder of baby Jamie by restless natives, and Jamie Sr.'s fatal collapse. The focus then shifts to Sheldon's main heroine: young Kate, who grows up to take over the family company, along with beloved company-manager David, whom she finally weds. But David dies in WW I, and Kate--a hard-nosed businesswoman who doesn't quibble about arms sales and such--spends the rest of the novel ruthlessly arranging for her descendants to follow in her footsteps. Son Tony wants to be an artist, for instance . . . until Kate makes sure that his first one-man show is a disaster--and also makes sure that Tony's Kate-picked wife Marianne gives birth (even if it kills her--which it does). And the final section, then, concentrates on Kate's twin grand-daughters, nice Alexandra and bad-seed Eve: after years of getting away with murder, evil Eve gets disinherited by Kate; so she concocts a scheme (with her sado-bisexual lover, a disinherited Greek tycoon) to get hold of Alexandra's money via seduction, marriage, and murder--a B-movie plot which has a handful of neat, nasty twists waiting at the end. In all: more a lively fiction smorgasbord than a steady absorbing novel--with a little revenge as appetizer, a bit of romance-salad, a hearty Bette-Davis-style entrÃ‰e. . . and less seamy stuff than usual in a Sheldon blockbuster.