A primitive forest, bandits and a journey provide the setting for Deborah Hales lively novel about lovers on a journey to escape, learning to trust one another even before theyve learned to share the whole truth about their personal identities.

Cecilia Tyrell and Rowan DeCourtenay met in the woods near the convent where shes a Sound of Music type of misfit. At this point, theyre strangers, although their Empress has chosen for them to marry each other. Cecilia decides hes an enemy, but is compelled to help him. Rowan decides shes much too brazen to be a nun, or a good wife.

When they meet again, Rowan knows Cecilias his promised bride, but gives her an alias, John DeCourtenay, his fictitious brother. Its an impulsive lie which he continues during their journey to escape their common enemy, the man who wants to marry Cecily for her strategic lands. The lie makes real companionship possible, but presents problems of trust as the two fall more and more in love. This heroine disguises as a boy, enhancing her character in the well-drawn setting. Action defines the journey and her rescues of Rowan are as plausible as his rescues of her. A completely gratifying first medieval for Deborah Hale, from beginning to end. Sensual (Nov., 340 pp., $5.00)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger