This steamy historical novel (Cokal's second, after Mirabilis
) chronicles the adventures—sexual and otherwise—of its consumptive, red-haired heroine, Famke, from her childhood in a late 19th-century Copenhagen orphanage to her fate in the American Wild West. Famke's sensuality blooms early, and she graduates from Sapphic encounters at the convent orphanage to a passionate relationship at the age of 17, as model, muse and lover to Albert Castle, a young English Pre-Raphaelite painter. Albert renders her as the mythical Nimue and leaves Copenhagen with his masterpiece to seek his fortune. She follows him to America by marrying a polygamous Mormon, Heber Goodhouse, headed to Utah. From Utah, Famke makes her way to Colorado, where, disguised as the itinerant artist's young brother to avoid sexual solicitations, she discovers Albert's artwork in brothels—but not the artist himself. Discouraged and weak with tuberculosis, she is taken in by a wealthy, eccentric inventor in Hygeia Springs, Calif., who treats her consumption with a proto-vibrator. His mistaken suspicion of her involvement with a violent labor movement called the Dynamite Gang necessitates her escape once again. A series of incredible coincidences lead to her reunion with Albert and an explosive climax. This labyrinthine, literary bodice-ripper may titillate readers willing to follow the improbable plot twists and turns. Agent, Liv Blumer.
8-city author tour. (May)