Judith Henderson is not surprised when her father parts with 100 of his precious sheep in order to get rid of her. She finds herself the only Englishwoman in the Scottish Highlands, and as if that weren't bad enough, she finds herself married-for the third time-to the clan's boorish, unwashed laird. Alistair MacLeod, meanwhile, would prefer facing a contingent of armed English soldiers or a bout of the plague to marriage, especially to a scrawny, sour-tongued shrew.

The newlyweds ignore each other despite the efforts of his matchmaking grandmother. Then she presents them with an ultimatum-if they really don't suit after a true three-month trial marriage, they can get decide to part. They reluctantly agree in hopes of getting their freedom. Soon Judith finds she's married to a hard-working laird, who puts the safety and welfare of his people before himself. In turn Alistair learns that his wife is an honest and caring woman.

But their new relationship is severely tested by Judith's nightmarish past and the plotting of a sadistic murderer.

Karen Ranney has written an emotional, complicated romance about two people from opposing cultures who find love, courage and strength to vanquish despair and prejudice. SENSUAL (Sep. 350 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Maria C. Ferrer