While on a mission for Fremont to infiltrate the aristocratic Californio's homes, Rafe Timmons takes on the identity of a dead man, Rafael Verdugo, and heads for San Diego, where he is welcomed in Don Ruiz's rancho. Juliette Pilar Ruiz is not a conventional woman. Already thought to be a spinster, she has spurned most men. Her main interest is learning everything she can about medicine until Rafe arrives.

As she nurses him through a leg wound, Juliette realizes she will never love another. Then Rafe's perfidy is revealed and Juliette must make a most difficult decision: choose between loyalty and love, between caring for her ill mother or seeking her heart's desire.

Set in a tumultuous era in California's history, this story's moving, sweet romance not only warms readers hearts, but gives us an intriguing picture of Fremont, the Californios and Mexicans. With secondary romances and the question of abuse and mental illness, Ms. Cajio adds even more depth to a tale peopled with strong, admirable characters. SENSUAL (Aug., 348 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin