Forbidden love, passion and insanity pack the pages of this debut, a Bridges of Madison County wannabe but to no avail--chilly characters and arbitrary action spell alienation for the reader. For 30 years Rose Keating has led an ordinary life as a farmer's wife and mother in rural Connecticut. A dark passion lurks in her past, though, and it returns to haunt her just as her husband, Burt, is dying. Rose's passion was for a monk who, she learns, has recently disappeared from his monastery in Pennsylvania, and recalling that love affair impels her to seek the man out despite her husband's desperate condition. Her journey brings back memories of her first encounter with Father Theophane, then a Catholic priest in her small hometown, who sought out her homeopathic remedies to heal his excruciating headaches. When the priest abruptly abandoned his post, the lovestruck Rose followed him to his family mansion on a small island off the coast of Maine. The two became lovers, though the priest, reverting to his given name of Ellis, refused to let Rose in on the details of his traumatic childhood. Before the summer was over, the troubled priest impregnated Rose, tried to involve her in a double suicide, then disappeared. Abandoned, Rose married Ellis's homely cousin, Butt, and settled into the sensible role of a farmer's wife. It will be three decades before the soon-to-be-widowed Rose manages to corner her former lover and learn the answers to the mysteries surrounding him. In the end, Ellis must return to his monastery, but the late-in-life encounter eases his own psychological burdens as well as Rose's. Cecala's tale never quite recovers from the cold-bloodedness of its hero, who so often turns his back on Rose, or of its heroine, who abandons her dying husband with hardly a thought. Passion and intrigue may abound, but another Bridges this is not.