Sir Mark Haywood answers Brandon Cavendishs summons for help in rescuing his daughter Belle from Mortimer Fletcher. Mark cannot refuse Brandons plea even though Belle was his childhood nemesis.
He travels to Bodiam Castle with his companion Jobe, an African whose life Mark saved, and Belles younger brother, Kitt. His plan is to pose as a suitor for Mortimers unattractive and ill-tempered daughter.
Belle is being held captive until she reveals to Mortimer where to find the ruby-and-pearl broach she wore the day she married his brother. Mark locates Belle in the tower and the old animosities flare instantly, now fueled with sexual awareness.
Belle comes up with a plan to force Mortimer from the castle by making it appear to be haunted. With everyones help and some fireworks, Mortimer is hilariously scared out of his wits, but in his anger, he causes more trouble for them all.
Ms. Phillips has created interesting characters (including the cat Dexter who makes Mark sneeze and the ghost of Bodiam Castle) to inhabit a plot that has been written many times. The language, while reflecting the era, is somewhat stilted and mixed with modern vernacular. Yet for laughs, excitement and romance, this fits the bill. SENSUAL (Sep., 350 pp., $4.99)