In November 1889, Nellie Bly sets out for the New World, and Samantha Spencer, who dreamed of being Nellies equivalent on the Chicago Evening Star gets fired for refusing to be demoted to society reporter.

Sam returns home to River Valley, a trip originally planned for the Christmas holidays and her cousin Elizas wedding. Shes determined to return to work as a writer in Chicago without having to reveal her unemployment to anyone.

Eliza is to marry Charlie Morgan, one of the six Morgan brothers. Another cousin of Samanthas loves Andrew Morgan. Benjamin Franklin Morgan, the towns school teacher, has always secretly loved Samantha, but held back for the sake of his brother Duncan, who ran away when Sam turned down his marriage proposal. Now Ben decides to convince her to fall in love with him before she returns to Chicago, and Sam inadvertently plays into his hands. She remembers Ben as the scholar of the family, the Morgan brother she found most exasperating, but to discourage the matchmaking game, Sam suggests they pretend to be going around together.

Besides the high-tension romance plot, Pamela Quint Chambers provides intriguing looks at Sams commitment to her career and Bens attempts to adjust to her dreams even if it means he might lose her. Brightest of all, the authors flawless recreation of family life and the Christmas season in a small late-nineteenth century Midwestern town recalls Louisa May Alcotts skills in Little Women. SENSUAL (Dec., 350 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger