She is the woman credited as the founding mother of the modern historical romance, and in The Elusive Flame, Kathleen Woodiwiss once again sets the standard for lush, evocative storytelling. The son of Captain Brandon Birmingham and Heather Simmons whose own story enchanted readers in The Flame and the Flower captains his own ship and his fate as he meets Cerynise Kendall once again. Beau Birmingham struggles between honoring the girl he remembers from his youth and fulfilling the passion which flares when Cerynise seeks him out to save her from predatory Alistair Winthrop. A quick marriage in England, a planned annulment when they reach America, a tumultuous sea voyage that tests both life and love survival skills all mesh into the captivating tale of the next generation of Birminghams. Renewed acquaintances with Heather and Brandon and their family, the dogged pursuit by Alistair, keep this story lively to the very last page. It took 25 years in real time for Woodiwiss to bring us this story and The Elusive Flame has been worth waiting for.

In love and war
Historicals have flourished since Woodiwiss's first tales, as authors continue to offer fresh stories and ways of telling them. In the crucible of a pacifist Moravian community caught between British troops and local Liberty Men, love grows in Wild Indigo by Judith Stanton. Jacob Blum's arranged marriage to Single Sister Mary Margaretha depends on the Moravian tradition of drawing the lot. Desperate for a new mother for his three children, Jacob turns to Retha, despite her mysterious background. Wild as the injured wolf she cares for, Retha must battle her own inner demons and the dangerous presence of Sim Scaife. Stanton's impeccable portrayal of Moravian culture burnishes a riveting Revolutionary love story.

The ole switcheroo
Publishers, too, look for new ways of storytelling, and a distinctive example is Two Brothers by Linda Lael Miller. Separate stories in one volume weave the romantic Western adventures of The Marshall, Shay McQuillan, and The Gunslinger, Tristan Saint-Laurent, identical twins raised separately since infancy. When Tristan comes to town, the brothers switch identities to solve a stagecoach robbery. But there's no substitution in love as Shay and Aislinn Lethaby discover long acquaintance still holds surprises. Tristan finds his own growing love in a new arrival in the West, Emily Starbuck.

A story after Celine Dion's own heart
The contemporary counterpoint to Woodiwiss surely must be Nora Roberts, whose powerful suspense and series romances are consumed voraciously by readers. Angelique's Curse is the deep-sea treasure that links Matthew Lassiter and Tate Beaumont in The Reef. The priceless necklace draws treasure hunters and modern-day pirates bent on possession. Roberts's crystalline characters deliver sparkling repartee as they face heart-pounding dangers as rapturous as the narcosis which can capture divers unaware. Roberts deftly guides her story through explosive action and inveigling self-analysis that will have readers cheering for Tate and Matthew.

Woo, woo!
When a woman needs a mate, there's none better than My Man Pendleton by Elizabeth Bevarly. But not so fast. Before Kit McClellan settles into marriage and saves the family fortune for her father and brothers Pendleton can darned well pursue her a little. And pursue her he does, woo her, too, and . . . but that would be telling. So I'll just tell you this: My Man Pendleton is as whimsical and sprightly as fresh-popped champagne. A romp to relish.

Hot on the trail
FBI agent Jackson Walker hunts a killer whispered to be a Navaho shapechanger in Legend by Laura Baker. Ainii Henio pursues the same killer-legend to avenge her medicine man father and forces Jackson to face his own heritage in this enthralling suspense.

Sandy Huseby writes and reviews from her homes in Fargo, North Dakota, and Nevis, Minnesota.

comments powered by Disqus