A lively though somewhat overblown sequel to the author's first (The Ravished Earth, 1987), this one featuring an ambitious 18th-century English merchant and his passionate red-haired daughter. Joshua Walsoken made his fortune in the mercantile business and now intends to realize his fondest dreams: to become a respected landowner in East Anglia's fen country, marry his daughters off well, and retire as a powerful new member of the gentry. His family is happy to go along with this plan--except for rebellious youngest daughter Rebecca. who fails for the first inappropriate male she sets eyes on in their new hometown. Surprisingly, Luke Talpin, the handsome peasant she's fallen for, turns out to be the illegitimate son of Horace Hardwick, an elderly local aristocrat. Hardwick decides to introduce his son to society just in time for Luke and Rebecca to carry on a predictable series of romantic misunderstandings in the comfort of the local manor houses rather than out in the swampy morass. Meanwhile, the author's attention wanders to others among the landed gentry: George and Mary Hardwick (featured in the first book), an ""old"" family so deeply in debt to Rebecca's pious father that they can hardly afford to feed their infant son; Henry Milton, who dreams of fame as a writer, and his wife, Julia, who longs for motherhood but instead becomes a literary star herself; young Dr. Kesteven, a brilliant ascetic who fails to win Rebecca's love; and Elizabeth, Lady Woodhouse, whose rich husband sexually abuses her. Too many characters to follow: the author is forced to cut frantically from one angst-ridden scene to the next, with some unintentionally comic results. Nevertheless, there's plenty of action before everyone lives happily ever after. Light and entertaining, with more than enough material for further installments.