LORD OF DUNKEATHE
Lady Riona Mac Gordon, the adopted and beloved niece of Glencleith, is too smart for half the men suitable to become her husband. But when her dear uncle Fergus decides she's the woman to become the next Lady of Dunkeathe and save what's left of her poor home, Riona can't refuse.
Upon arriving at the vast Norman-owned holding, Riona decides she's too smart for the Lord of the manor toojudging by the chaotic display of guests, servants and horses in his courtyard. Everything here is bold, including leatherclad Lord Nicholas, who flirts outrageously with her. While Riona figures out who the mysterious man is, the rest of her noble competition gets mired in the rules of polite society.
From the first, Nicholas likes Riona, but he can't possibly marry into such a poor family; he needs wealth and influence in the Scottish court. A Norman mercenary's good fortune on the battle field has brought him success, and he plans to use the same cold-blooded tactics to win a bride. But Riona's unconventional spirit will teach Nicholas and his fellow countrymen about true honor and passion meant to last a lifetime.
This familiar classic holds its own and even brings to light the unseen suffering imposed on those women eligible for marriage. Although sprinkled with humor and a sense of danger to those who can't possibly "win" a noble title, the story falls short of its full potential by staying within the genre's (at times) too-well-known boundaries. SENSUAL (Feb., 384 pp., $6.50)