Ronda Thompson seems determined to make her Mescalero Apache romance remarkably realistic, and she succeeds. But staying so true to the era means creating a very negative atmosphere with a heroine who's relentlessly mistreated by the novel's male characters, which makes the requisite happy ending unbelievable.

Heroine Rachel Morgan was abandoned as a child by her trapper father and grew up among the Mescalero. She loved and was loved by Swift Foot, but feared her own feelings for him and fled. Now she's returned to New Mexico, after five years living in white culture, to help the suffering Apache tribe trapped on a hellish reservation.

Swift Foot hates being captive, hates whites and hates Rachel—known in Apache as Silent Wind. He married when he believed she'd never return, but his wife and many of his tribe are dead because of the whites. Swift Foot uses Rachel as a hostage to escape the reservation with his mother and daughter.

This novel is a well-written and believable action-adventure, although the realism proved a bit too harsh for my taste. SENSUAL (Jun., 369 pp., $5.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger