THE MIDWIFE'S SECRET
Midwife Amanda Ryan's husband divorces her because she can't have any more children following a stillbirth. She buys property in Banff, presents herself as a widow and asks Tom Murdock to build her a house. She plans to continue as a midwife and take in orphans until they can be placed in permanent homes.
Sawmill owner and builder of the grand Banff Springs Hotel, Tom is robbed by his partner, who steals money, the land that Amanda then purchases and the woman Tom intended to marry. Tom is intrigued by Amanda but wonders if she is somehow connected to his partner's schemes, especially when he finds out she is divorced, not widowed.
The love story develops through high sexual tension. Amanda's restraint toward love is based on her inability to bear the children she assumes Tom wants. His caution is a bit more vague, based on his previous experience with an unfaithful, dishonest woman and Amanda's lie. Interesting period details are threaded throughout, like the community's discomfort with Amanda riding a bicycle. Only the lack of detailed background on midwifery, until the story's end, was somewhat disappointing. SENSUAL (Feb., 299 pp., $5.25)