Peripheral glimpses of 19th-century Irish famines and rebellions are the background for this saga of the quicksilver rise of two climbers: County Mayo peasant Shane O'Malley and Edinburgh bookseller Jamie Campsie. When the two first meet in Derry, Shane has just escaped from a tragic recent past in which his young wife and son died. Jamie, on the other hand, has just inherited a title from a distant cousin--he's now Lord Eagleston. Soon the two, respecting and liking one another, are on their way--via railroads, land investment, and shipping. Jamie has inherited, along with the title, a family of cousins, including Lady Eagleston and her three daughters. Anne, the prettiest and feistiest, is indignant at the intrusion of a stranger who might turn them out. But charming Jamie wouldn't do that: he does crave the ancestral base, so he proposes marriage to Anne, while she is attracted to gloweringly virile Shane; and Jamie's fires are genuinely lit by Rosaleen, more distant kin of Lady Eagleston. It's some time before this circle is squared with two marriages, but meanwhile Shane attempts nobly but spasmodically to help his starving compatriots; and ships are sailed, contracts are negotiated, and houses are built. There are also brief bursts of oratory concerning the state of the country. Busy and dense, but strangely lacking in drama or color.