The Last Good Man

The Last True Cowboy

A Mother's Gift

Night Falls Like Silk

The Night Remembers

Once Upon a Wedding

Something Worth Keeping

Sunrise Song

What the Heart Knows

You Never Can Tell

 
A View of the River
by Kathleen Eagle
(Mira, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-7783-2098-7
****
Prolific veteran author Kathleen Eagle is back after a too-long two-year hiatus, apparently having been dropped by her hardcover publisher.† A View of the River is a pleasant and enjoyably sexy novel, but it lacks any major drama and suffers from under-plotting.† Still, itís a welcome enough return to barely squeak by with recommended status.† †

Rochelle LeClair has taken a leave of absence from her Minneapolis teaching job to care for her beloved and ailing Aunt Meg in Little Falls.† Meg has given away most of what was left of the fortune that Rochelleís ancestors earned in the logging business, and Rochelle is trying to hang onto Rosewood, the family estate, by running an inn that specializes in group retreats.†

A particularly New Age-y retreat heralds the arrival of Birch Trueblood, an Ojibwe medicine man from nearby Mille Lacs who was the object of Rochelleís embarrassing teenaged crush years ago.† Birch is now a widower with a 9-year old daughter, and although he gamely participates in the Indian rituals handed down to him by his father and grandfather, heís not sure he is doing anything more than going through the motions.† Rochelle, too, is skeptical of the merit of Birchís rituals and determined to not make a fool of herself again in his presence.† But the two are brought together by a freak Autumn blizzard and a lingering spirit who needs Rochelle and Birch to discover the truth behind century-old secrets that link their families in surprising ways.† †

Kathleen Eagle has been married for 35 years to a Lakota Sioux Indian, and consequently has always written about the Native American experience with accuracy and compassion.† Birch is one of her charming, sexy Native American heroes who doesnít quite have his act together. †He drinks a little too much and relies on his daughter to keep him organized, but heís a devoted father and he has a personal magnetism that renders him completely irresistible to Rochelle.† A standard Eagle heroine, Rochelle is down-to-earth, devoted to her Aunt and immediately at ease with Birchís daughter Robin.† You know these two belong together from their first encounter.† †

So itís disappointing that the couple donít have a better plot surrounding them.† First and foremost, thereís very little conflict keeping them apart. †Rochelleís skepticism about Birchís profession evaporates quickly, as does her resolution to keep her distance and avoid the heartbreak she experienced as a teenager during their one brief passionate encounter.† Even the morning-after disappearing act Birch pulls after their first explosive contact is shrugged off as no big deal, as are any lingering feelings he may have had over his wife, a National Reservist killed two years ago while on overseas duty.† Basically they meet, fool around, fool around some more and eventually realize they love each other.† †

Other narrative issues are underdeveloped as well.† Rochelleís older sister Crystal, a flighty, selfish single parent, arrives at Rosewood with fiancť and prospective in-laws in tow.† While for a while it appears that Crystal is angling for a share of an early inheritance from Aunt Meg, and the in-laws take a little too much interest in the family china, nothing happens to bring matters to a head and the threats quickly dissipate.† Crystalís 10-year-old son Garth suffers from a definite lack of maternal warmth, but his situation is never directly addressed.† †

The plot thickens a bit when everyone is snowed in together.† As always, Eagle utilizes interesting wordplay and double entendre puns between the lovers (although sometimes their banter can become difficult to follow), so despite the thin plotting, the story moves quickly.† The ghostly presence allows Eagle to educate the reader about the mistreatment that Native Americans continued to suffer well into the 20th century.† †

I wonder if her last publisher pushed Eagle into a direction she wasnít comfortable with; her last two hardcovers were less than fully satisfying.† Hopefully, Harlequin/Mira appreciates Eagleís ability to create luscious love stories populated with delightful characters, and will do their best to promote her.† Please donít wait another two years for your next release, Ms. Eagle! †

--Susan Scribner


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