Her father moved the family to New Mexico Territory to avoid the hardships of the coming war between the States, and the isolation has made Adelaide Blewitt's daydreams of fairy castles and knights in shining armor central to her sanity. So when a wounded Charley Wilde and his friend ride up to her farm house door in the dark of night, she offers them immediate refuge and Southern hospitality.

Charley, mystified by Addie's attitude and incongruous chatter, tells her half the truth: he and his men are a brass band from America City, Georgia. He decides to stay when Addie mentions the family rubies, because his gang has failed at two robbery attempts; but this one from Addie and her hysterical Aunt Ivy will surely be easy and the last stealing the brass band will ever need to do.

Addie behaves ladylike in pursuit of her Price Charming. Charley responds in kind to the Southern manners, the chance for peace and for a future. He tries mightily to be the gentleman Addie assumes him to be, but his attraction to her and his plots to steal the rubies make the role more and more difficult.

The featherbrained Adelaide and her Southern belle aunt quickly become enchantingly funny. All the quixotic small town characters in this romance captivate and entertain. Alice Duncan must have taken lessons from Charles Dickens when choosing character names and she's created a romantic gambol of pure fun with a good degree of underlying sexual tension. SENSUAL (June, 362 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger