Signet's rising star takes an impressive step forward in what promises to be a hugely successful career with this searing probe into a man's soul in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.

He does not fit her image of a hero in any way. Of course, that might be attributable to the fact that he is only a dog. Still, his master doesn't seem like much of a hero either, even though he and his canine friend do indeed come to Miss MArgaret Dorton's rescue in the park one day.

Captain Evelyn Dade survived the horrors of Waterloo under the most bizarre of circumstances. Still, his morbid fascination with death would seem to justify his equally morbid nickname, "Captain Dead." But the day he encounters Miss Dornton, he experiences a rare rush of joy, one that gives him hope for the future.

Will this sheltered lady have the courage, strength and faith to look into this heart and soul and not flinch at what she sees? Has he at last found the surcease for his soul he so desperately craves? Or is this all just a fleeting glimpse of a happiness not meant to be his?

Ms. Fairchild puts our hearts through the wringer as the lonely Captain Dead struggles to come to terms with his experiences and rewards both him and the reader with a gentle heroine of gallant heart. A Regency tour de force, this intensely moving novel is period fiction at its best. (Feb., 212 pp., $3.99)

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