Living in the privileged world of the very rich, and engaged to the mill owner, Emma Tremayne should be happy, but restlessness drives her to create 'improper' sculptures and to question her place in the world. Then a woman carrying a dead child mangled by one of the mill's machines stops the season's last fox hunt. Emma is struck by the horror and her life begins to change.

Emma is drawn to Bria McKenna, a simple Irish mill worker who represents so many women in Bristol. Against all she has been taught, Emma befriends Bria and her two children. She tries to help her survive consumption and give birth to a healthy baby.

Bria's husband, Shay, has an even greater impact on Emma. Embittered by life, he has faced great tragedy and despises the rich while dedicating himself to his family and fighting for Ireland's freedom. Though Emma should be his enemy, she is his wife's friend and a comfort to his children.

With her pragmatic outlook on life Bria teaches Emma more than she can imagine. With her dying breath Bria decides to give her dear friend and her beloved husband a chance at happiness.

Bria's friendship allowed Emma to grow strong, and her newfound love for Shay has made her brave, but her mother's cruelty and her sister's bitterness may destroy everything.

This novel truly speaks to the heart as Ms. Williamson delves into the human soul to find the strength to grasp happiness, forgiveness and the inherent goodness in the world. Few authors have the power to so beautifully impart these feelings. She imbues her stories with a deep compassion and her characters with real emotions and gifts her readers with a story of stunning grace, eloquent prose and a lasting impact. SENSUAL (Aug., 421 pp., $6.50)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin