À la Nicholas Sparks, this novel takes on a topic unusual to the romance genre, the effects of suicide on survivors. But, unlike Sparks, Winnie Griggs doesn't cloud the love story or destroy the happy ending.

The widowed Maddie Potter is a rescuer. Her colorful household of strays includes a dressmaker for the local bargirls, an older widow who sees and speaks to her dearly departed, an actress in perpetual garish costume, a cat named Othello and a bird named Sweetie Pie, all recently joined by an orphaned child, Katie. Maddie is determined to adopt Katie, doing whatever it takes to get approval from the authorities of the small town where she lives. She decides that the promise of marriage will improve her chances of being an adoptive parent, so she asks her friend Judith to select a man willing to play the part.

Clay Kincaid, Judith's brother, arrives to play the role of suitor, but soon questions whether the unconventional Maddie and her flamboyant household are a suitable home for Katie. The pretend romance soon develops into the real thing in this deftly handled, family-oriented morality tale. SENSUAL (Dec., 306 pp., $5.99)
Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger