Ea -- I agree with you on Rutherfurd. It did take him a while to get into his stride. He seemed to get it right, though, with *London*. I'm looking forward to his Irish books (didn't know they were available as ebooks, so thanks for that tip). He was so serious about this work that he actually went to live in Dublin for five years while he put in the research spadework.
And, Bill: If you liked *Pillars of the Earth*, you'll love *World Without End*. It's a fine job of work by a superb author.