Long before the Titanic, the side-wheeler S.S. Central America went down along the Atlantic coastline. Brenda Hiatt has taken that little-known fact and built an adventure/romance novel around the passengers, real and fictional, who lived through the tragedy.

Della has to leave San Francisco in a hurry when she is unjustly accused of a crime she did not commit. She flees aboard an eastbound ship, posing as the wife of New York businessman Kent Bradford.

Kent doesnt know what to make of the stunning redhead who introduces herself to a potential investor as his newlywed wife. Since the charade benefits his chance of gaining the money needed for his business, he reluctantly keeps up the masquerade.

The long voyage is the perfect place for this duo, a wealthy shipping magnate and a snake-oil saleswoman and prospectors daughter, to learn about each other, fall in love and marry for real. But as they board the newly rechristened S.S. Central America in Havana they have no idea of the danger they face from Mother Nature.

Brenda Hiatts carefully painted portrait of her characters and the exciting historical events are what carry this tale forward. This is an intriguing look at how people behave in unusual circumstances and the true meaning of heroism. The lessons we can learn from people like Della and Kent will long stay with readers. SENSUAL (Apr., 350 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin