A poor child who made his fortune while globe-trotting, Alexander Kindross finally settles in New South Wales and sends to his homeland of Scotland for a bride.

When 16-year-old Elizabeth arrives, Alexander sets her up in his mansion in the barren countryside. Though she bears him two daughters, bright Nell and brain-damaged Anna, Elizabeth never gets over her initial revulsion toward Alexander and is not disappointed when he spends time with his mistress, Ruby.

Strangely, Elizabeth and Ruby become close friends. It is Ruby who helps Elizabeth when Anna is raped and then gives birth to a child, and it is Ruby's half-Chinese son, Lee, who opens Elizabeth's heart to love.

McCullough returns to her roots with a rich family saga of tragedy and triumph that's full of unforgettable characters. Readers will be more than satisfied and clamor for more from the woman who revitalized the genre with The Thorn Birds and always delivers the very best in women's fiction. SENSUAL (Dec., 450 pp., $25.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin