Nicholas Fortune was a hard-bitten mercenary, illegitimate son of an aristocrat and an actress, until the day he assumed another man's identity and wife. Fate introduces Nicholas to his half-brother, Lucero Alvarado, a ruthless Spanish don, who bears a striking resemblance to Nicholas.

Since her brutish husband left to fight with Maxamillian, Mercedes Alvarado has rebuilt the crumbling ranch. No longer a frightened girl, she is a mature and passionate woman the day her "husband" comes home.

The war has changed Lucero. He is himself, yet a stranger. He is no longer brutal, heartless or cruel. He cares for the land, adopts an orphaned child and falls in love with his wife. Nicholas believes his dreams have come true until he is recruited by the American government to find the man who plans to assassinate Juarez.

Suspecting that Lucero is not who he seems, Mercedes will risk everything, even murder, to keep him alive. When Nicholas rides off on one last mission, Lucero returns, threatening Mercedes' forbidden happiness. After Lucero flees, Mercedes and Nicholas are caught in a web of betrayal and treachery.

With strong characters, great depth of history, rich prose and fascinating twists and turns of plot, Shirl Henke delivers a spellbinding romance in the tradition of "Sommersby" that will leave you enthralled and enraptured. VERY SENSUAL (May, 425 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin