At age 14 Ariane is betrothed to Lord Ranulf, the Black Dragon of Vernay. As are most marriage in 1150, it is a political alliance and she consents to her duty willingly. Her brief encounter with Ranulf during the betrothal ceremony gives Ariane hopes they will have a good marriage, but four years later she is still waiting for him to return from embattled Normandy for their wedding.

He arrives with Henry Plantagenet of Anjou and his purpose is not marriage, but to take control of Arianes home, since her father has been declared a traitor by Henry.

Arianes attempts to preserve her fathers property until he can be proven innocent are easily overcome as she becomes a hostage. But she will not yield to the powerful Black Dragon because it means betraying her father. Lord Ranulfs claim to her heart and his growing attachment to her complicate both their political loyalties.

The emotional conflicts of this story give a new perspective to the adage love conquers all. Nicole Jordan creates her Medieval world and characters with impeccable skill and reminds us that love must do battle to win over past hurts, fear, politics and all its other emotional adversities. SENSUAL (Mar., 403 pp., $4.99)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger