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An idealistic schoolmarm meets a hardened Navajo warrior in this loosely-based-on-fact tale. Determined to close a lifetime of distance between her and her estranged father, Miranda travels to Fort Sumner and is drawn into conflict when she witnesses the treatment of the Navajos.

Ahkeah has watched his people suffer too long. Forced into a life that means starvation, poverty, and the erasure of their history, the Navajo must live at the fort while the U.S. government decides their fate.

Miranda devises a plan to empower the next generation of natives. But in doing so, she will face daunting challenges, both in a old man's refusal to soften and in the entrenched beliefs of two very different cultures. The only light is the love she feels for Ahkeah, but loving him is forbidden.

While not a light read because of the emotionally charged circumstances and the violence inherent in the period, Miranda and Ahkeah's saga highlights the issues of cross-cultural passion and prejudice. The author presents a vivid historical essay, yet this reader found it difficult to believe two such culturally and emotionally different people would fall in love so quickly or that they would have little or no struggle in their affair. SENSUAL (May, 300 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Anne Black