cover image The Favored Child

The Favored Child

Philippa Gregory, Book Two of the Trilogy. Pocket Books, $18.95 (472pp) ISBN 978-0-671-67910-1

This impassioned sequel to the page-turning Wideacre carries the fortunes of the Lacey family, now decaying country gentry, into the late 18th century. The great house lies in ruins, after a calamity that also destroyed beautiful, vicious Beatrice Lacey. Heirs Julia and Richard are betrothed cousins, but each vies to be the legendary ``favored child'' who shall own Wideacre. Julia's trance-like dreams, which unite her to the dead Beatrice and hint at the past's dark secrets, enable her to save Acre village from disaster. Worried by her ``gift,'' Julia's family hopes she can be ``cured'' in Bath, but there she meets James Fortescue, who is far kinder than the petulant Richard. Julia's growing assertiveness and recognition of Richard's tyranny keep the reader rooting for her. Rich with rural English scenes--the hovels of the poor whom Julia aids, the fields she manages, the woods where she races her beloved horse--Gregory's galloping plot leads to a savage but satisfying conclusion that piques anticipation for the trilogy's conclusion. Doubleday Book Club main selection. (July)