Immediately after her husband's death, Abigail Cooprel, pregnant and in labor, makes her way to the nearest mining town, Guston, Colorado. She makes it to the church where Lars has just delivered another baby to a nameless woman.

Lars delivers Abbie's stillborn girl. A babe without a mother, a mother without a child. He decides the solution is to give Abbie the wailing baby boy, whom she names Matthew.

By the time Will Tremain arrives six years later, Abbie knows Matthew isn't really her child. Will stays at the boarding house Abbie runs, and he frightens her as all strangers do. He's known as "Black Irish" to the other miners, a man skilled in blowing up mountains, with a dynamite temper.

Will never stopped looking for his wife and the child she carried. Lonely and discouraged, he makes friends with the boy Matthew and feels the warmth of family at Abbie's house.

Will is falling in love with Abbie, but he cannot court her because not only is he a man without a wife, but a man who is not free. Abbie fears him, although later she wants a marriage of convenience for "Matthew's sake."

Linda Castle writes a wonderful, complex, intense love story, flavored with zesty secondary characters and a dash of humor. SENSUAL (June, 350 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger