Young Bridget, a member of the mystical, ancient religion of the Cathars, follows her mother's footsteps to keep alive the legacy of healing and wisdom that has come through her lineage from Mary Magdalene. But this is a time of mistrust. The Catholic Church, fearing the loss of power, has taken a strong stand on those they consider heretics, like Bridget and her uncle.

Raoul de Montvallant, a Catholic, first sees Bridget when she attends his wedding to the lovely Claire. His family and their village have been a place of safety for the Cathars. When he witnesses the Church's cruelty, Raoul is haunted by Bridget's face and becomes a rebel.

Zealous Simon de Montfort vows to seek out and destroy every heretic by leading a crusade against the enemies of the Church; that includes peaceful healers like the Cathars and gentle women like Bridget and Claire.

The fervent religious war rages on until it is up to the next generation to hold onto the beliefs, to continue the ancient traditions and to find a love that will triumph over those whose intolerance would destroy them.

Capturing both the beauty and the horror of the 17th century, Elizabeth Chadwick recreates a fascinating era. Readers will be held spellbound by the courageous Bridget, Raoul and Claire and by Simon's prejudices. This novel will certainly satisfy anyone whose thirst for history needs to be quenched. SENSUAL (Aug., 409 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin