Nora MacKenzie has always lived a financially insulated life. First with her parents, then with her husband, businessman Michael MacKenzie. Nora is completely unprepared for the dramatic turn her life takes when Michael suddenly commits suicide and his empire collapses.

Banker Charles Walker Blair, head of Blair Bank, also faces a career and emotional crisis when he is forced to witness the suicide of Michael MacKenzie. Unable to deal with the stress and nightmares, Charles puts his brother-in-law Sidney Teller in charge of the bank and heads off to work and heal on an isolated sheep farm in Vermont. In the process Charles Walker Blair disappears and C.W. Walker is born.

With the financial picture very bleak and creditors gathering, Nora takes a gamble by agreeing to accept the sheep farm in Vermont as her portion of the estate. She may even lose that, if auctioning off the rest of their property doesnt garner enough money to pay all the debts. At the time of his death, Nora and Michael had been estranged. During that same time Michael had grown more and more paranoid and warned her not to trust anyone. Taking him at his word, Nora gathers whatever business papers she can find and hides them. According to Michaels notes, he blamed Charles Blair for all his financial woes. A desperate Nora swears she will get even for the destruction Mr. Blair has caused.

C.W. is skeptical when Michaels widow arrives claiming she is going to run the farm. Keeping his true identity a secret, C.W. is shocked to discover Nora holds him responsible for the collapse of the McKenzie empire. As far as he knows, Blair Bank never made any loans to Michael. C.W. soon realizes that an elaborate plot has been devised to destroy him and turn control of Blair Bank over to his stepmother Agatha. Only with the evidence contained in Michael Mackenzies notes can C.W. find way to turn the tables on Agatha to save both Nora and the bank. His growing love for Nora forces C.W. into a terrible position; he may be able to save Nora financially, but in the process lose her love forever.

With The long Road home talented new author Mary Alice Monroe delivers a terrific first novel, which deftly chronicles the emotional awakening and bonding of two lonely people who dare to change their lives and gamble on love one more time. (Mar., 373 pp., $4.50)

Reviewed by: 
Jill M. Smith