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Dunn fails to deliver in her newest melodrama, a meandering historical that chronicles the expedition of Rafael, a Spanish retainer sent on what he is told will be a brief trip to construct a sundial for Mary Tudor. But once he arrives in xenophobic and unstable England, Rafael does little but whine about the weather and how much he misses his wife and son. Unfortunately for Rafael, his project is delayed, and while waiting to return home, he becomes infatuated with Cecily, a tender housekeeper who becomes his constant companion despite their language barrier. They fall in love (albeit excruciatingly slowly), but their affair is complicated by Rafael's conflicting feelings for his wife. Mary, meanwhile, plays a very secondary role until a late-book shift in which she becomes a paramount force in the narrative as it tumbles toward a surprising conclusion. Although Dunn nails Rafael's fascination with sex, and her eye for detail remains sharp, much of the prose feels stilted, and the interminably slow plot is hobbled by a wallowing narrator and facile treatments of isolation, religious tension and icy domestic life. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.