This novels detailed look at life on a wagon train and the effects of moving westward poignantly reveals the myriad ways love heals suffering and loss, and reshapes new families from the ones broken by tragedy. Susan Edwards weaves together many individual stories: that of the newlyweds Jessie and the Native American White Wolf, of Jordan Jones and his Coralie, of the irascible Rooks problems with his love interest, and of the others traveling west together. But this is primarily the harrowing, suspenseful love story of Eirica Macauley and James Jones.

Eirica finally had the courage to separate from her abusive husband Birk. Pregnant with their fourth child, she becomes a widow when Birk apparently drowns while pursuing her across the Platte River. As the wagon train continues west, Eirica faces the uncertainties of the journey and the terrors of raising her children alone in the Oregon wilderness.

When James Jones begins to show an interest in her, Eirica cant immediately trust him not to be like Birk. James understands Eiricas reluctance to give in to the passion she feels, but not the importance to her of real independence. Long attracted to Eirica, James experiences increasing difficulty restraining his passionate love now that shes free. Neither of the lovers realize the hidden threat relentlessly pursuing to interrupt their journey toward happiness. Sensual (Apr., 338 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger