The Renegades: Cole

The Renegades: Nick

The Lover by Genell Dellin
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-060-00146-1
Eagle Jack Sixkiller wakes up in a jail cell full of drunks with what feels like a hangover. The problem is he is stone cold sober. What he's feeling is the results of being hit over the head with a two by four by Kentucky rustlers who stole his racehorse.

When Susanna Copeland comes in looking for a man who is willing to pretend to be her husband and help her drive her cattle to Kansas, Eagle Jack is the only one in any condition to agree. Plus, if Susanna gets him out of jail he can track the horse thieves who stole his prized pony Molly.

The rest of the book is all about the cattle drive, and of course Susanna and Eagle Jack falling for each other. Trouble is, the reader can't imagine anyone falling for Susanna.

Susanna is an independent woman. Of course by independent, I mean argues and demands her way constantly like a petulant brat. She's never been on a cattle drive before, yet she insists that she must be the boss. Never mind that her ignorance could get them killed, she has to be in charge, with a capital I and C. In the first few pages alone Eagle Jack has already proved she knows nothing about what needs to be done.

What, we have to trail brand my cattle? You're not making me do that! No man tells me what to do! We have to hire a cook? I should have done it months ago? Well, I'll be the cook! In fact I'll do everything, you just sit there and look sexy while I prove I'm an independent woman.

Honestly, it's not an exaggeration. The worst part example of this is when the man Susanna has agreed to rent horses from shows up with a pack of nags then slyly suggests that Susanna can pay him with something other than money when she gets back. Eagle Jack gets angry, pays the man himself and orders him off the property. Rather than thank her stars that Eagle Jack saved her bacon, Susanna has a hissy fit because he overrode a decision she had already made, plus he's angered a powerful man in town. Um, isn't Eagle Jack supposed to be pretending to be her husband? Doesn't Susanna think that a husband might get a little ticked off when another man propositions his wife?

No, Susanna doesn't think that way, she's too busy being mulish to even listen to anything. For example, she assumes because Eagle Jack is in jail and is unsteady on his feet (common after being bashed on the head with a plank) that Eagle Jack is a drunk. Not an unlikely assumption, however even after Eagle Jack tells her several times how he came to be in jail, she keeps talking about his love for drink and his drunken ways. Even after he shows her the giant knot on his head. After the twentieth or so time she starts in with the drinking business, the reader finds themselves wanting to scream "He wasn't drunk you twit!"

The whole pretending to be married plot device also made no sense. First of all, when she goes to the jailhouse, Susanna announces loudly in front of no less than six people that she's looking for a man to pretend to be her husband. Not exactly the smartest thing. Then she proceeds to treat Eagle Jack like a hired hand and doesn't act married to him at all. She gets all bent out of shape when he comes into her room to get a blanket (so he can sleep in the floor). She fumes, how dare he come into her room without permission! Newsflash Susanna, married people usually do that.

Eagle Jack is for the most part a decent hero. He is not the "noble savage" caricature of most Native American heroes. Frankly, one wonders why he put up with Susanna. Honor or no honor, after two days with her I would have left the bail money to pay her back and took off. Anyone tempted to pick this book up should do the same.

--Anne Bulin

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