Elizabeth Grayson, the historical writer formerly known as Elizabeth Kary, delivers a heart-wrenching quest in Painted by the Sun. While she captures on tintypes and stereopticons the majestic Colorado landscapes, frontier fancy ladies, cowboys, and outlaws, Irish immigrant-turned-photographer Shea Waterston searches the West for the son she surrendered. She believes she's discovered her lost son Liam in the home of Judge Cameron Gallimore. The boy known as Rand to Gallimore and his sister Lily has been well loved since he was adopted from the notorious orphan trains. Anguished that she's found her son but cannot claim him, Shea takes in Tyler, a ragtag boy neglected by his outlaw father. Grayson has a master's touch as she adds depth to a strong character story with fascinating insights about vintage photography methods and the powerful aftereffects of the Civil War on its veterans. She weaves a majestic tapestry of love lost and found, sacrifices asked and honored in this seamless, wondrous Western tale.

In contemporary tales, the Irish immigrant is likely to be a child of the Olde Sod returning to the homeland. Erin O'Halloran flies to Ireland to assist her fellow doctor, Tom Flannery, with an errand of mercy in JoAnn Ross's emotionally compelling Fair Haven. Amid the mysterious mists of West Ireland, where ghaists and faeries seem as real as, oh, perhaps, guardian angels, Erin confronts a part of her past in Michael Joyce. He turned his back on his life as a photojournalist of war and suffering for the tranquility of an Irish farm.

Despite the past which threatens their budding relationship, Michael and Erin are drawn closer by the needs of his newly found daughter, Shea. The fabric of their lives is imprinted with their experiences in war zones. As a relief doctor, Erin had watched Michael instead of a wounded child be airlifted away from Sarajevo. Michael is drawn back to his beloved cameras by Shea's zest for her new life away from the northern Irish conflict. For his daughter, he even provides happy endings to usually melancholy Irish folktales. When Shea's headaches unexpectedly bring them all to the brink of loss, Erin and Michael learn to surmount those past shadows, finding sanctuary in each other, as Erin has found peace in the cottage called Fair Haven. Just as Michael does for his daughter, JoAnn Ross rewards her readers with an uplifting happy ending. She may break your heart a bit, but she'll stitch you whole again with this evocative Irish tale.

Anne Stuart captures exquisitely the faded glamour and lingering decadence of Hollywood in Shadows at Sunset. Jilly Meyer is determined to prevent her father from tearing down the House of Shadows, left in trust to her and her siblings. She finds an unlikely consort in Zachariah Redemption Coltrane. Coltrane has come to California and that same Casa des Sombres because he believes Jilly's father murdered his mother there. But that secret pales beside the family secrets he discovers in Jilly's household. Reminiscent of vintage Hollywood a la Sunset Boulevard and Chinatown, Anne Stuart's edgy suspense is a guaranteed page-turner.

Jet across the Atlantic to Brenda Joyce's House of Dreams, where two sisters, Cassandra and Tracey, both crave the same man, Antonio de la Barca. Complicating matters is Cassandra's devotion to Tracey's neglected daughter, Alyssa. The trio are the heirs to, and potential victims of, the tempestuous loves and tangled relationships of centuries of the de Warenne and de la Barca families. Rivalries, jealousies, passions, and intrigue are all here as Joyce lives up to her bestseller status with this, her first hardcover romantic suspense. It's a zesty clash of the tartans as gifted historical writers prove that their Scottish tales are as unique as clan plaids.

Texas cowboy Jake Delaney seeks a missing copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence when he meets up with a bonny lass named Gillian Ross in Geralyn Dawson's spirited Sizzle All Day. The Scottish miss is desperate to assure the family castle sells well . . . but there's one missing ingredient she decides to provide. The hijinks of Gillian's masquerade as a ghost give way to unabashed passions in this sparkling treat.

In a winsome witty medieval tale, Egan MacBain's best friend enlists him to escort Glenda MacKay back to her borderlands home in Samantha James's His Wicked Promise. Little does Glenda know that the powerful warrior at her side will capture forever the threads of her heart with promises of marriage and a child and the deliciously wicked promise of enduring love.

Sandy Huseby writes and reviews at fireside in Fargo or in a hammock under the northern Minnesota pines.

 

Award-winning romance

Annual Romance Writers of America RITA Awards, the romance fiction genre's kissin' cousin to Oscar, Edgar, Emmy, and Tony for books released in 1999, include:

Best Traditional Romance: Annie, Get Your Groomby Kristin Gabriel (Harlequin, $5.99, ISBN 0373440731)
Best Inspirational Romance: Danger in the Shadowsby Dee Henderson (Multnomah, $6.99, ISBN 157673577X)
Best First Book: The Maiden and the Unicornby Isolde Martyn (Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0553581686)
Best Regency Romance: The Rake's Retreatby Nancy Butler (Penguin, $4.99, ISBN 0451197895)
Best Short Historical Romance: The Propositionby Judith Ivory (Avon, $6.50, ISBN 0380802600)
Best Long Historical Romance: Silken Threadsby Patricia Ryan (NAL, $5.99, ISBN 0451408276)
Best Contemporary Single Title: Body Guardby Suzanne Brockmann (Fawcett, $6.50, ISBN 044900256X)

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