A compelling plot and nuanced character portrayals contribute to the emotional impact of Rice's ninth novel, a transcendent story about the power of hope and family love. Daisy Tucker has built a comfortable life with her 16-year-old daughter, Sage, in Silver Bay, Conn., where she has gained a reputation for designing jewelry that seems to have inspirational powers. Combining artistry with her knowledge of Native American myths and legends, Daisy creates pieces that bring people together, heal wounds and serve as talismans. But no combination of gemstones and carved animal bones can assuage the pain in Daisy's life. Sage's twin brother, Jake, disappeared in the wild country of Wyoming during a cattle roundup 13 years ago, when he was three. Fleeing the scene of tragedy with her daughter, Daisy left her husband, James, behind at his family cattle ranch and moved to New England to be close to her sister, Hathaway. Now Daisy faces another crisis when a pregnant Sage runs away with her boyfriend, Ben, intent on a new life with her father at the ranch. Ben has second thoughts and decides to return home, so Sage heads on alone. Hitchhiking leads to danger, and a mysterious, tattooed teenager rescues Sage and agrees to drive her to Wyoming. Daisy joins James in Wyoming, where another teenager, calling himself ""The Guardian,"" is stalking the ranch. Rice (Cloud Nine) creates believable dramatic tension about Jake's true fate, though the suspense lies mainly in whether the other characters will realize what has become of him. Though she overdoes the sentimentality, her fans always welcome the family values her stories celebrate. Author tour. (Jan. 30) Forecast: Among writers of women's fiction, Rice has a loyal following based on her ability to place realistic characters in atmospheric backgrounds and crisis situations. Cloud Nine became a bestseller in paperback, and its popularity could carry over to sales of this novel, which will enjoy national TV advertising on the Lifetime network and print advertising in a variety of venues.