White Dove by Susan Edwards
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-4890-6
***
This Indian Western gets big points for originality into a sub-genre where stereotypes and clichés abound. It loses big points for the unsolved mystery at its heart - what does such an appealing hero see in this shallow, humorless heroine?

White Dove and Jeremy Jones first met three years prior to the start of this story, when her brother (a Lakota chief) married his sister (a white teacher). When they encounter each other again, at 22, they realize that their bickering competitiveness hides mutual attraction.

There’s a problem, though. As a result of a prediction her grandmother made when Dove was four, she believes she is destined to marry a Great Warrior. To be worthy of this superior spouse, Dove has spent her life becoming a warrior herself, developing hunting and fighting skills that are equal to or better than any male’s. In fact, she has apparently fought and defeated most of the braves in her tribe in hand-to-hand combat just to prove that none of them deserves her.

In frustration, her father, who understands that Dove’s definition of “warrior” is a little skewed but has not shared this insight with her, finally gives her an ultimatum. She must choose a husband or he will choose one for her. Dove is appalled - what part of “Great Warrior” doesn’t he understand?

As attractive as Jeremy is, certainly he can never be her husband because everyone (well, Dove) knows a white man can’t be any kind of real warrior. To add insult to injury, he has a very strong nurturing streak. He’s wonderful with children and, after Dove rescues him by killing a female bear, Jeremy raises its two cubs by hand, leading the tribe to call him Hunkuya Mato or Mother Bear. Dove is still snickering over the name long after the other Lakota stop using it with derision and make it a name of respect.

Jeremy decides that if a Great Warrior is what she wants, that is what he will become. In spite of the scorn Dove heaps on his intentions and his efforts, he joins the Lakota band and throws himself into learning their ways. Once committed, he perseveres steadfastly in spite of failures, setbacks and the humiliation of having to train with boys half his age and size.

While Jeremy works his tail off proving himself to her, White Dove struts around reminding everyone - constantly - that the warrior she’s to marry “… will be great. He will be the bravest. He will be strong. No one will defeat him. And he will make me feel things no other can. This I know to be true. It was spoken by my grandmother.”

According to the text of the book, however, when Dove asked her grandmother if her future husband would be a great warrior, what her grandmother actually said was that “he’d be a wise man, one who followed his heart.”

Which turns the Great Warrior theory into childish self-aggrandizement. Certainly Dove has an enormous opinion of her own merit and spends most of the book sneering at everyone who doesn’t live up to her definition of excellence. To the reader, however, it is clear almost from the outset that the game, loving, intelligent, insightful and passionate Jeremy is worth two of her. Maybe three.

The cumulative result? I wasn’t on the edge of my seat wondering if Jeremy would prove himself the warrior of her dreams, or if Dove would learn to see past her superficial ideas of manhood to find the warrior at Jeremy’s heart. I was too busy wishing that Jeremy would forget her and go find a woman worthy of him, and that White Dove would just get over herself already.

By the time she realized the error of her ways I just wanted her out of my life. Why Jeremy kept coming back for more, I still have no idea.

If you have a high tolerance for Annoying Heroine Syndrome, by all means read this book for the delightful hero and a refreshing take on the Indian theme. For a girl you can like and root for, you’ll have to look in some other tipi.

--Judi McKee


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