Mary Elizabeth Inlow came to the tiny town of Hilsboro to forge a new life for herself with her cousin and her cousin's friend. All three women bear the emotional scars of unhappy marriages and are referred to as "The Merry Widows of Sierra County."

When Rafe McCade is ambushed and his daughter is shot by an arrow, he is consumed by guilt. He seeks doctoring and is sent to the widows' place.

Rafe surrenders his daughter into Mary's loving care. Though he appears a forbidding gunman, he is a wealthy mine owner with enemies who might have hired a killer to ambush him.

Mary has longed for a child of her own and works tirelessly to break Beth's raging fever. She is successful and in their unbridled joy she and Rafe turn to each other, but Mary pulls away.

Rafe offers Mary a job as housekeeper and Beth's companion. The temptation of being near Rafe wars with her fears, but she agrees. Their trip to Rafe's homestead is fraught with danger that he is determined to overcome, for he is finally a happy man. He has his daughter and the woman he loves to share his life.

Mary's story is so finely crafted you will feel her pain and rejoice when Rafe's love restores her self-worth. The characters slip right into your heart. Ms. Michaels has bestowed a lovely gift upon her devoted fans, who, with two more books to follow, have much to anticipate. SENSUAL (July, 389 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Frances L. Trainor