Nan Ryan returns to a favorite theme, star-crossed lovers, in her latest tale set during Reconstruction.

As a child, Ladd Dasheroon fell in love with Laurette Howard. That fascination grows to mutual love and would have ended happily ever after except for the Civil War and one man's jealousy.

Though Ladd and Laurette welcome Dasheroon's plantation manager's son into their lives, Jimmy Tigart's jealousy of the young couple's privileged lives festers.

When war breaks out, Jimmy joins the Union Army, while Ladd goes to fight for the Confederacy. Ladd and Laurette vow to marry when he returns, but cannot wait to consummate their love.

During the war, Ladd is captured and taken to the prison known as the Devil's Castle, which is run by Jimmy's ruthless henchman. Jimmy uses this twist of fate to his advantage, by having word reach Laurette that Ladd is dead.

While Ladd manages to escape the hellhole of a prison and hunts for a fortune in stolen treasure, Jimmy returns to Mobile and marries a grief-stricken Laurette.

Eight years later, Laurette, now divorced, meets the newly arrived Sutton Vane. The wealthy, charming and mysterious man seems to set his sights on her, but it's all part of Ladd's scheme to make her pay for betraying his love by marrying Jimmy.

Ladd learns that revenge is a double-edged sword as he falls in love with Laurette all over again, yet the danger to their love is not over as Nan Ryan builds her story to a powerful climax that will move readers to tears. SENSUAL (Apr., 380 pp., $6.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin