All hail the incomparable Patricia Oliver as she orchestrates a romance of powerful intensity along the Cornish coast.

Lady Sylvia is ruined. Her runaway elopement with the oh-so-charming Sir Matthew Farnaby comes to naught when her father refuses to pay off his daughters suitor, but not before she is thoroughly compromised in the process. Only one alternative remains.

And so she comes to Cornwall to live with her aunt, an eccentric lady who scandalizes the neighborhood by living in unwedded bliss with her Italian lover. But it is in this unorthodox household that the earls daughter finds a true home.

Ten years later, Lady Sylvia is quite content to be on the shelf. Focusing on her painting, she easily ignores the various less than honorable offers that come her wayat least until the arrival of Nicholas Morley, widowed Earl of Longueville. Still embittered by his one venture into matrimony, he vows never to let his heart be vulnerable again.

But danger lurks along the cliffs as Lady Sylvia finds herself delving into the mysterious death of the earls wife. Was it an accident, or was it murder?

While intricately developing an enthralling plot, Ms. Oliver fascinates us with her richly detailed characterization and sensitive insight. (Feb., 224 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Melinda Helfer