In this uproarious dramatization about the power of love to overcome the past of lovers, gambler Nicodemus Turner makes the bet of his life on wildly independent Alewine P. Jones. Nicks just found out he has a daughter and wants to appear as a normal, married man in order to gain custody from the dying mother. Hes wanted Aly a long time and knows she would never break her word on paying a bet, so if he wins she must do whatever he asks, once.

Alys as intoxicating and original, as charmingly funny as her unusual name. The reader meets her as, to pay on a another bet, she covers herself with tar and feathers to crow in public at dawn. Shes made a life for herself as owner of a freight operation and isnt about to yield in any way to the restrictions of being feminine, or of being in love. How could she foresee that her good friend Nick would require she pay a lost bet by dressing like and pretending to be a lady, his wife. Once she travels with him, meets his daughter and sees him as a father, how can she resist wanting the pretense to become real?

This love story is wonderfully reminiscent of Annie Get Your Gun but also an original. For an all-around good read, Dia Hunter adds believable settings and villainy, plus one of the most engaging six-year-old characters ever. Sensual (Apr., 310 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger