In an opening reminiscent of Clint Eastwoods Hang em High movie, lawman John Morgan Caine gazes out the window toward the gallows and sees Lacey Ashton, who is a light in the darkness. From this compelling vision of a world her hero has ceased to believe in, Lori Morgan carries the reader through a tautly written traditional Western romance to the conclusion that love heals trauma more surely than bloody revenge.

After 13 years living with her aunt in England, Lacey is just off the boat, in more ways than one. When the cabby gets his carriage stuck, she wanders around barbarous San Francisco to find shelter until she can board the packet to Portland where she hopes to rejoin her father. She gets carried along in the excited crowd and witnesses the hanging of four outlaws that Morgan Caine brought to justice. All her belongings are stolen and her escape from the crowd takes her into a gentlemens club. Everyone there, including Morgan, takes her for exactly the kind of woman allowed in a gentlemens club, and certainly not for a lady.

The lawman rescues her and gallantly gives up his room, but Lacey steals from him to continue her journey. They meet again in Oregon because Morgan and his plan to avenge his sisters murder are intertwined with secrets from Laceys childhood.

Lori Morgan draws Lacey as a traditional romance heroine, not spoiled by the violent realities the hero knows. She is also a woman searching to belong and to love. As her experience crosses into the rough frontier of Morgans, she illustrates that love, even when directed toward a vague objective, has the eventual effect of winning happiness. Sensual (Jul., 315 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger