After ten years of banishment and hiding from the shame of being known as "Crimson Lily," Lily Blakesmore is coming home to care for her orphaned nieces and nephew. She hides her fear behind a mask of eccentricity and flamboyance that only one man can penetrate.

Morgan Elliot is determined to bring down John Crandall, Lily's supposed lover. He takes a job as the repairman at the dilapidated Blakesmore mansion and discovers Lily is not the woman he first imagined.

Yes, she is flamboyant and seemingly wild, but it is her love of life and adventure, combined with her vulnerability, that captivates Morgan. The children come to depend on him as much as Lily, and Morgan finds himself caught in his own trap.

The longer he works at Blakesmore house the more he questions Crimson Lily's scandalous past and begins to unravel the truth about the long-ago disgrace that gave her the notorious reputation.

Lily's inherent goodness, caring and compassion win Morgan over and when others arrive to claim the children, only Morgan holds the key to helping Lily gain custody and reclaim her life. But betrayal, insecurities and mistrust nearly ruin Lily's one chance for happiness.

Linda Francis Lee is a master at bringing 1880s New York to life-the glittering facade that hides the cruel reality of society. Her remarkable characters and the poignancy of her writing are marks of an exemplary writer whose understanding of the human heart goes beyond the ordinary. SENSUAL (Dec., 350 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin