The Civil War has cost Verity Talmadge dearly. With her brother missing and her two closest childhood friends dead through the betrayal of an unknown spy, Verity heads for the Army of the Potomac determined to prove the guilt of Major Garrett Knox.

Garrett, just as determined to find the traitor, sends the proper New England miss back home to safety. Soon, however, a new soldier appears in Garrett's troop: wiry and combative Verrill Watkins.

Young Watkins proves his mettle with his sharp shooting and uses his handy fists to defend his right to be a soldier. By the time Garrett realizes that Watkins and Verity are one and the same, he's learned that Verity's life is in danger, so he allows her to maintain the charade.

Among the soldiers of the 20th Massachusetts, Verity finds a home and friendship. The troops' adoration for Major Knox makes her realize he can't be the spy. Her suspicions give way to respect while Garrett finds Verity a woman he can truly love. Their mutual attraction leads to a passionate, explosive relationship.

A BRIGHTER DAWN is an entertaining read and, though not highly original, showcases Ms. Piel's ability to set a romance against a large panorama, a lovingly detailed picture of the camaraderie and commitment of soldiers and the power of love to heal. SENSUAL (June, 380 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Cindy Royce