Bright Morning Star

Raven's Bride

The First Time

The Second Vow by Kathryn Fox
(Zebra Ballad, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6821-2
The Second Vow is the second book in a trilogy featuring three members of the Mounted Police hence the series title, The Mounties. Braden Flynn is an Irishman come to the wilds of Canada to make a new start. His dark red hair and easygoing ways have helped him gain acceptance by the local Indian tribes. But itís 1877, and thousands of Sioux and Cheyenne from across the border are making their way into Canada, following the buffalo and hoping to avoid capture by US cavalry who wish to force them onto reservations. Their leader? A proud chief named Sitting Bull.

Braden and a small detail of men are assigned to welcome the refugees and make them understand they will have to follow the rules set forth by Canada. His arrival in the Sioux village creates a stir, and a young woman is brought to Sitting Bullís tipi to help interpret. She is Dancing Bird, niece to Siting Bull and a mischievous adventurer in her own right. Braden and Dancing Bird are drawn to one another, and he soon loses his heart.

Braden requests, and is denied, permission to marry Dancing Bird, so they take matters into their own hands and pledge their own vows to one another in a Sioux ceremony. The peace they find will be short-lived. The Blackfeet, native to this region, are worried that the dwindling buffalo herds will not support the additional tribes. When the buffalo are gone, all will starve. Renegades and troublemakers keep Braden busy, even as his love for the beautiful Dancing Bird grows ever deeper.

Their worlds are colliding. Braden and Dancing Bird will soon be torn between their love for each other and their respective duties to their people.

A word that properly describes this book would be absorbing, not a word usually used to describe a romance, but Kathryn Fox has done her homework. These are no cardboard soldiers and Indians. Sitting Bull and his people are developed characters, witty and proud, sad and completely human. Fox really brings them to life. The spunky Dancing Bird, a tomboy longing to break free of the strictures of her tribe, is the perfect character to make a romance like this ring true. It would take a strong and resilient person to chance the disapproval of her family and marry outside of her people. Fox doesnít shirk on this, and the problems facing this couple felt real.

So did their obvious attraction for one another. Two kindred spirits really do meet in this story, both looking for an exhilarating freedom denied them by their upbringing. Braden revels in the free affections of his wife, so different from the tightly-corseted and straightlaced women heís known. Dancing Bird is astonished at the depth of passion she feels for this light-skinned man with the hair like burnished fire. Their love scenes, while not sizzling, are at least warm and believable.

The plight of the Sioux tribes is nearly as engrossing as the relationship between Dancing Bird and Braden. We get to know these people, and their struggle to find and keep a place of their own is heartbreaking. Knowing that it will be futile in the end makes their story even more poignant.

The Second Vow is a tender, honest, mostly historically accurate romance. Kudos to Kathryn Fox for bringing us these characters and letting them have their time in the spotlight. Letís hope at least some of them will make an appearance in the third book in this trilogy.

--Cathy Sova

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