After young Molly Ivins and her family are attacked on the Oregon Trail by bandits, she is rescued by a lone Cheyenne traveler and is raised as Moon Hawk.
Now as an adult, she has forgotten her past completely. Instead of trying to find her root, Molly protects and provides for a small band of women, children and elderly men who couldn't make the long journey to the Indian Territories.
Ryan Tolliver hears about a white woman living among the Cheyenne and decides to find out whether it's Molly, so he can collect the reward offered by her grandfather. He has an accident in a snowstorm before reaching Moon Hawk's camp and she rescues him from death.
Due to his injuries, Ryan can't remember who he is or why he came. Renamed Etoneto, he slowly recovers while he and Moon Hawk fall in love. One night, bandits invade the camp, and Etoneto is wounded in the fray and loses all memory of his interlude with Moon Hawk, becoming Ryan Tolliver again. Her band leaves for the reservation and Molly agrees to travel with Ryan to her people in St. Louis.
Ryan recovers his memory of loving Moon Hawk, but not before she is pulled back into her life as Molly, where she must marry well to save her grandfather from financial ruin.
The multiple incidents of memory loss and identity changes really stretch the bounds of believability. This well-written story gets its history right, but the constant reversals make it difficult for the author to construct a satisfying resolution for these characters. SENSUAL (Nov., 297 pp., $5.99)