A lushly written first novel, set in early America, by the Pacific Northwest--based Donati. Elizabeth Middleton is a 29-year-old spinster who leaves England in 1792 with her brother Julian to join their father, a judge with significant land holdings in upper New York State. She plans to establish a school where she can teach the children in the village of Paradise, but has not counted on the sexy, diverting presence of Nathaniel Bonner, a white man raised as a member of the Mohawk tribe. The attraction is immediate and mutual, and the two quickly become involved in a steamy affair. Elizabeth must take great pains to keep their romance hidden from the narrow-minded villagers and from her father, who wants her to marry the local doctor, Richard Todd (Todd's ample funds could help pay off the judge's many debts). When she defies her father and elopes with Nathaniel, her family and the village are horrified. The lovers disappear into the woods, where Todd tracks them ruthlessly. When Nathaniel's wounded by an accidental gunshot, Elizabeth travels solo for days to seek aid for her now-husband. Along the way, she's captured and nearly killed by the evil Jack Lingo, who is pursuing long-lost Tory gold that he believes Nathaniel has hidden away. When she and Nathaniel finally return to Paradise, it's only to face the hamlet's ingrained bigotry. Even her own brother is dead-set against her marriage and has a hand in setting a fire that ultimately brings about tragedy. Donati, a skillful storyteller, easily weaves historical fact with romantic ambience to create a dense, complex design. Her effort to paint Elizabeth as a woman out of synch with her times-insistent on her own right to education, freedom, and self determination-pays off. Exemplary historical fiction, boasting a heroine with a real and tangible presence.