Cooper's Wife

Last Chance Bride

Malcolm's Honor

Night Hawk’s Bride by Jillian Hart
(Harl. Historical #558, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29158-2
From beginning to end, I felt like I’d read this book before.

Marie Lafayette has journeyed to Fort Tye to join her father, who is the post commander. Her stated goal, and her father’s stated reason for inviting her, is to teach school there. Her real purpose is to establish a loving relationship with the distant, rigidly correct father who always put duty and career before the needs of his child.

Colonel Lafayette has a hidden agenda as well. He wants Marie to marry an officer of good social standing who will provide for her in a suitable manner and get her with grandchildren. In fact, her father has the ideal candidate all picked out.

Unfortunately for both plans, when Marie steps off the stagecoach she is nearly trampled by a runaway horse. Just in the nick of time, she is thrillingly rescued by a stranger whose arms make time stand still. He then leaps under the horse’s hooves to pull a small child to safety.

Marie’s savior is Night Hawk and, as he rides off with the other men to capture the renegade horse, she can see that he is an Indian, “dark, brave and proud.” Marie is curious but no one wants to talk about Night Hawk. Shortly thereafter, however, he approaches her to make sure she is unhurt.

“Noble and mysterious, wild and civilized,” Night Hawk rouses Marie’s interest but her escort, one of her father’s aides, hustles her off and won’t talk. Marie is determined to know more. “Meeting Night Hawk today had left her feeling as if she’d been interrupted in the middle of a sonata, the harmony of notes fading in the air, unfinished and without end.”

Later that evening, tired of waiting for her father to show up, Marie visits the stables, wondering if her father remembered to buy her a horse. He didn’t, but she finds Night Hawk tending to the injured gelding they captured. His “touch was like sunlight, his nearness like dawn” and she wonders “Could he be the one… The one she’d been waiting for all her life?”

Her father finds them and orders her back to the house. Her unsuitable behaviour reflects badly both on his reputation and her own.

Because she is a grown woman, however, and makes her own decisions and can take care of herself, she blackmails her father’s aide into taking her to Night Hawk’s farm to buy a horse without her father’s knowledge. While there, she shows Night Hawk that she’s not a feeble-minded female who can be pushed around, and tingles when he touches her. After she leaves, Night Hawk bemoans the cruel fates that made his “one and only” a white woman he is forbidden to love.

In case you can’t tell, my first criticism of this book is that it is a completely predictable story built on a firm foundation of clichés.

The next is that when the characters “knew” they’d found their soulmates right from the beginning, it left the romance nowhere to go but around in circles. Sure, something should happen the first time their eyes meet, but on page 15 we don’t know enough about the hero and heroine to believe that their worlds just came to an end. Whipping up a purple froth of music and sunsets and yearning and never-ending skies around it doesn’t make it any more believable.

It also creates a huge problem for the characters. Pushing her headlong into “love” means that Marie, for example, puts Night Hawk on a romantic pedestal at their second brief meeting and starts trying to seduce him at their third, regardless of the consequences. This doesn’t allow her to be an adult who learns to trust her own heart, it forces her to be an impulsive little girl who is too naïve to take seriously.

The hero is a politically correct, two-dimensional Noble Savage. His only weaknesses are Marie, and a willingness to get involved in a Big Misunderstanding to keep the final third of the book going.

There’s just nothing new here. If you’ve got a well-loved Indian romance on your keeper shelf, think about reading it instead.

--Judi McKee

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