The Last Warrior


Touched by Gold by Kristen Kyle
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-57966-5
Kristen Kyle combines a search for the lost treasure of Montezuma with an unusual romance between an earlís daughter and a gambler. If the story depends overmuch on coincidence and contrivance, is a quite acceptable western romance.

The book begins with the hero, Matt Devereaux, coming to after being bushwhacked by the Hayley brothers. He survived only because he tumbled down a cliff. But it looks like his survival will be short-lived; a cougar stalks him. But instead of pouncing on the almost helpless man, the cougar leads him to safety and to water. Matt makes his way to his old friend Angusís cabin, only to discover that the Hayleys have been there first. A dying Angus gives Matt a strange stone amulet that he found and makes Matt promise to seek out its meaning and the treasure he is sure it secret will uncover.

The scene shifts to Mexico City. There, Lady Elysia Carlisle is completing what she fears will be her last archeological expedition. She has promised her father that she will return to England and marry her fiancť, Peter Wentworth, who has come to escort her home, or so she believes. Instead, Peter has stolen the gold artifacts she has uncovered and melted them down. He has also taken a strange map she found that she believes will lead to the treasure. Almost penniless, Ellie follows Peter north to New Mexico, carrying with her the stone amulet she believes holds a clue to the treasureís location.

Ellie and Matt meet in Albuquerque. Ellie sees Mattís amulet and tries to obtain it by fair means or foul. When all else fails and when she discovers that Matt will not be deterred, the two team up on their mutual quest, a quest that becomes even more dangerous when Peter teams up with the Hayleys to try to seize the treasure.

The search for the treasure was fun, as Ellie and Matt figure out the puzzle that ultimately leads them to its hiding place. While I may not believe that archeological discovery is ever quite this easy, nevertheless it was exciting to watch our hero and heroine put all the pieces together.

Ellie and Matt were both familiar characters. She is a woman who chafes against the strictures of society and wants more than anything to pursue the passion for archeology she developed following her father from one ancient site to another. Matt is a man who has risen above a brutal youth and who has all the skills we expect in a western hero. He believes that his past makes him unsuitable to aspire to a woman like Ellie.

I must admit to one problem with Mattís behavior. He passes up a couple of very good opportunities to kill the Hayley brothers. Since they bushwhacked him, killed his best friend, left him to die a lingering death on an ant hill and generally behaved in a thoroughly unfriendly manner, I simply couldnít understand his reticence. I can only conclude that the author couldnít figure out any other way to sustain the danger and suspense.

The relationship between Ellie and Matt was nicely drawn. There is both understandable attraction and understandable mistrust between the two. Each is something out of the otherís experience. Matt is certainly very different from the proper English gentlemen whom Ellie knows. Ellie is a fascinating combination of toughness and gentility.

My evaluation of Touched by Gold is based on my put down/pick up test. I had no trouble putting the book down, but I also didnít mind picking it up again when I had the time to read it. But unlike Kyleís previous books, it didnít grab me and keep me turning the pages. Hence, the three heart rating.

--Jean Mason

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