When Lark Elliot and her aunt and uncle seek shelter in a mountain cabin, they never expect the cabins owner, Cletus Gibb, to offer to marry Lark.

For her aunt and uncles well being, Lark reluctantly agrees to the marriage. To the world, Cletus is a wealthy rancher, but he is unspeakably cruel to Lark.

Gambler Ace Brandon needs a job and hires on as a ranch hand for the winter. When he sees how Cletus treats Lark, he is appalled, but resolves to stay out of their business. Then Cletus, desperate for an heir, hires Ace to father a child on Lark. Ace agrees because this is the means to obtain the funds he needs to buy a ranch and a way of helping Lark escape.

Ace makes Lark feel valued and what begins as an arrangement ends in tenderness. But Ace must leave when winter is over and Lark is pregnant. There are many other trials and tribulations for these star-crossed lovers before they can be reunited.

As with all Ms. Hess books, the ending is joyous for everyone. The road to happiness is filled with wonderful characters, surprises, passion, pathos and plot twists and turns as only the inimitable Norah Hess can create. SENSUAL (June, 399 pp., $5.99

Reviewed by: 
Evelyn Feiner