Lovely Letty Banks is held prisoner by her father, who threatens to kill her half-sister if she ever leaves their plantation home. Letty is an old maid of 24 when she gets a chance at freedom.

Yankee Thornton Bradley is surveying the area and delivering messages from her grandfather. Thorn, intrigued by the quiet, troubled beauty, offers her safe passage to her grandfather, but her father thwarts that plan.

A decade later, in the midst of the Civil War, Letty and Thorn meet again. Her father is dead, Letty has a new identity and Thorn is a Yankee spy behind enemy lines.

Letty risks her life to nurse him. They share one night of passion, but Thorn does not remember her the next day. Ten years later they meet again. This time Letty is on trial for murder and Thorn meets the son he never knew.

Ms. Kirkland has written a poignant saga of a womans survival through cruelty, greed and war. However, this is not a romance novel. In more than 28 years, the lovers are together for less than a week. There is no sexual tension, no yearning, no interaction. As a saga, THE MAGNOLIA TREE is a fine read, Romance-wise it is a disappointment. SENSUAL (Sep., 350 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Maria C. Ferrer