Kate Malone and Cole Bradshaw are misfits. She's the daughter of a single mom who runs the town's saloon; he's an orphan. Together they're best friends. Kate is certain that she'll never love anyone else, but then they're separated when the town forces Kate's mom to close her saloon and move away. Now Kate's back and two things dominate her life: her plan to reopen the saloon and her love for Cole, who's now the town sheriff and bound to enforce the city's ordinance against saloons.

The characters are appealing and the traditional love story finely told, but Sands' conflict isn't strong enough to be convincing. Kate's dream of owning the saloon is not well suited to the time period of the novel and she ignores the level of isolation the saloon caused her and her mother throughout her childhood.

Kate's unwillingness to understand Cole's need for a more conventional wife and to protect his adopted daughter from the town's censure, added to her unwillingness to choose him over running a business, aren't well motivated and become repetitious. Their conflict is resolved with a conventional romance solution that is ultimately unsatisfactory. SENSUAL (Feb., 300 pp., $5.25)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger