The Lover

The Renegades: Cole

The Renegades: Nick

The Loner by Genell Dellin
(Avon, PG, $5.99) ISBN 0-06-000147-X
Black Fox Vann is a Lighthorseman, a Cherokee Nation lawman, in Dellin’s latest addition to her Cherokee Warriors series.

Black Fox has been tracking The Cat, an outlaw who has been robbing area bootleggers’ and giving goods to the poor, for several weeks. While The Cat has become legend among the Nation’s poor and needy - Black Fox is more concerned that the bandit has killed a U.S. Marshal. When Black Fox spies The Cat getting wounded in a shootout, he goes to offer aid and arrest him. Imagine his shock when he learns that The Cat is a girl.

Cathleen O’Sullivan is a girl hungry for revenge. The nastiest bootlegger in the Nation, Tassel Glass, was responsible for the deaths of her stepfather and mother. For the last year she has lived alone in the woods, robbed Glass blind, and left care packages for the poor. She was just getting the confidence to call Glass out in an honest duel, when she gets shot during her latest robbery attempt.

When Black Fox informs her that he is arresting her for the murder of the U.S. Marshal, Cathleen is shocked. She may be a burglar, but she isn’t so cowardly as to shoot lawman in the back. However, her calling card was left near the body, and Black Fox seems unmoved by her pleas of innocence. Can she convince him to help her find the real killer without giving up her plans for revenge against Glass?

I’m probably the only romance reader alive who never got burnt out on Native American romances. I still enjoy them, although even I admit that finding a good one isn’t always an easy task. This story of two lonely people finding their way to each other succeeds on the entertainment level - but lacks the sparkle to truly make it memorable.

Black Fox is the kind of guy who would follow the letter of the law to his grave; so even when he finds himself doubting Cathleen’s guilt, he still knows that he has a job to do. However, his growing feelings for her throw in plenty of obstacles. He admires her spunk and grit - but isn’t about to take advantage of a girl who is 10 years his junior and an outlaw to boot.

Cathleen is a bit harder to get a handle on, mainly because of her revenge seeking. While she’s smart and resourceful - she’s also bullheaded. Her stubbornness also slows down the momentum of the romance. I had a hard time believing Cathleen and Black Fox in love when there was such a large trust issue throwing up a roadblock.

Dellin does write some nice love scenes, including a first kiss that will likely stay with me longer than the actual story. The author also plays it smart by making the couple wait to consummate their relationship - so thankfully readers are spared the whole “I am your captive, make love to me anyway” nonsense.

Unfortunately the history is strictly wallpaper - which is too bad since I was mighty curious about the existence of the Lighthorsemen. I have a passing knowledge of some Native American history, but the fact that the Cherokee had their own lawmen within the Nation was news to me. The Loner is the kind of book that gets one curious to look for the details elsewhere, but alas there is no payoff in the actual book.

While not enough for me to give a wholehearted recommendation, The Loner is an enjoyable Native American romance that easily entertained me. In a historical marketplace overrun with English settings, finding well-written westerns is like the proverbial needle in a haystack. While it likely won’t win over any converts, Dellin’s latest should please fans of the sub genre.

--Wendy Crutcher

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