Major Lord Jacob Forrester is severely wounded in the Peninsular Wars of 1815. The surgeon on staff feels he cannot be saved, but Rachel Brady, a sergeant's wife and hospital nurse, insists on taking him back to her tent and nursing him to health.

Jake recovers under her careful ministrations and the two are drawn to each other. Unfortunately, the lovely Mrs. Brady is married to a handsome, but callous, man.

The fighting is fierce, and while one might expect Ms. Counts to resolve the plot by killing the husband, this is not the case. Instead, just as Thomas Hardy did in The Mayor of Casterbridge, we see the husband get rid of his tiresome wife, Rachel, by having a wife sale. And of course, who should rescue her with his purchase, but Jake.

Although the ending of the story is quite the fairy-tale reversal of fortunes, Ms. Counts weaves a believable story of adversity, romance, and compelling characters. SENSUAL (May, 380 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Michell Phifer