Snow Fire by Norah Hess
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-4691-1
There was so much that left me frustrated about this book, it's difficult to know where to begin. But here goes: the story opens in late autumn in Colorado. The year is anyone's guess, the spine of the book labels it a historical and everyone is on horseback, but with no further clues it's difficult to pin it down further.

Our hero, the ruggedly handsome Stone Falcon, glimpses the willowy Flame Martin riding in the distance. He immediately senses he's found his lifetime mate. So what does our intrepid hero do? He decides to wait until spring, after the snows melt and the weather's nicer, to track her down. Huh? I didn't get it either.

Meanwhile, poor Flame is being physically abused by the mother from hell and is desperately fending off the sexual advances of her mother's odious boyfriend, Deke Cobb. If any woman could benefit from the assistance of a stalwart hero, it's Flame. But the weather's bad, so she'll just have to hold on until the spring thaw.

Eventually, the weather warms up and Stone begins his search for the woman of his dreams. On the way, he finds a young Indian woman and her aunt being abused by the nasty Jackson brothers. Stone rescues the young woman named Little Bird (leaving her poor aunt to her fate), and arranges for Little Bird to live with his Indian friend, Shilo. Mission accomplished, Stone continues his search for Flame.

He finds her, badly beaten and left for dead, in a pouring rainstorm. He seeks shelter and when Flame regains consciousness, he discovers she has amnesia. He uses this opportunity to lie to Flame, tells her she is his wife and takes her back to his ranch.

By the time her memory has returned, Flame has fallen in love with Stone and isn't angry that he lied. But through a series of misunderstandings, she thinks the big lout is in love with Little Bird. Which isn't so farfetched, since Stone is pretending to pursue Little Bird in order to make Shilo jealous.

Things come to a head when Deke Cobb discovers Flame is still alive and kidnaps her. A frantic Stone races to track them down before the evil Cobb can rape and murder her. But on the way, he is once again distracted by those pesky Jackson brothers, who are still enjoying Little Bird's long-suffering aunt. Stone abruptly ceases his hunt for Flame in order to aid the Indian woman.

It's at this point the book nearly hit the wall (and in all my years of reading, I've never before felt compelled to let one fly). I'm certain the point was that Flame could take care of herself. But in an effort to make Flame self-sufficient, the author made Stone appear thoughtless and self-absorbed.

My husband, unknowingly, hit it on the head when he asked me how I was enjoying my book about Flame and Stud. This book is filled with romance stereotypes: amnesia, the big misunderstanding and the studly, but stupid, hero. Staccato sentence construction that causes reader hyperventilation and no appreciable character growth make Snow Fire a book I cannot recommend.

--Karen Lynch

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