With her latest novel, Rosanne Bittner begins a new series that follows the expansion and settlement of the American West.

Though her father has warned 16-year-old Jessica Matthews not to wander far from their cabin in the Alleghenies, she is attacked by a band of Iroquois and rescued by hunter Noah Wilde.

Jessica falls in love with Noah, who must leave, but promises to marry her when he returns. While he's gone, the family is attacked; Jess' parents are killed and her baby brother is taken away, while she is made a captive.

Though not treated badly, Jess is frightened by what appear to be barbarian customs (ear piercing and face painting) and by being given to a warrior as his woman. Once again, Noah saves Jess and the two set off to find her brother.

INTO THE WILDERNESS is a rare novel by Ms. Bittner since it does not focus purely on Native Americans. Though she turns from the Indians' plight to that of the early settlers, the portrait of Indian life is as carefully researched as any of her previous novels (and a young George Washington even makes an appearance). Though some events are predictable, the colorful backdrop and historical accuracy make this a wonderful beginning to a promising series. SENSUAL (Apr., 288 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin