A Dime Novel Hero

His Unexpected Wife

Mail-Order Bride

Outlaw's Bride

Untamed Hero

 
To Find You Again
by Maureen McKade
(Berkley, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-19709-3
***
Westerns are somewhat rare these days, and when you find one that has a strong heroine and a decent hero it is a treat. Unfortunately for me, this tale is written with too many modern day values and thus it reads like a good vs. evil tale. Others may find it much less preachy.

Emma Hartwell was taken by Indians of the Lakota Sioux tribe when she was just 11. They saved her in an accident in which she almost drowned. While they stole her from her family, they treated her well and she was adopted by a childless couple, Tatulah and Fast Elk. She grew up to learn their ways and at age 17 she married a young brave and had a son, Chayton. When her young husband was killed in a raid, she stayed with the tribe. Chayton, now age 4, is a lovely young child and she is proud he is her son. One horrible day, soldiers attack the tribe, killing men, women and children. Emma is seriously wounded and is saved only when the soldier realizes she is white. They return her to her home and she knows not the fate of her young son.

Upon her return to the town of Somerset, she is welcomed by her mother, father and sister, Sarah. They assumed she was dead and are happy for her return but regretful that she is now tainted. No one dares ask if she is still pure, it is just assumed she was treated savagely. Emma at first is too injured to care how she is treated. When she realizes the townspeople shun her and her own family is ashamed, she is too angry and upset to care. She is determined to return to find Chayton.

Ridge Madoc grew up outside Somerset and has just recently left the army, where he was a scout. When the army started raiding Indian villages and killing innocents, he decided he could no longer stay. He wants to earn enough money to buy back the land surrounding his small farm so that he can go into ranching. Emma’s father owns the land, having taken advantage of Ridge’s stepfather to get it.

When Emma takes off to find Chayton, Ridge hires on with her father to find her and bring her back. He needs the money to buy a bull to start his herd. But he doesn’t count on Emma. Emma can hide her tracks. She knows how to ride and how to stay ahead of him. Eventually he finds her and she convinces him to take her to the Lakotas. She promises then she will return home and pay him extra. During the course of their journey, they discover their attraction and come to rely and depend on each other. When Emma finds Chayton, she must struggle with the question of what to do. Should she leave him with a tribe of Indians that are slowly being driven to the reservations, or should she bring him back with her to the world of whites, who will shun them both?

Emma is a great heroine. She is resourceful, strong due to the hardships she had to overcome, and she is determined. Yet she knew love of a family in two worlds, her white family and her Indian family. This makes her warm and engaging too. She grew to love the Lakotas and understands that while different, they are just people who are not to be feared. Ridge, having spent some time with an Indian tribe, also understands this and they are two non-prejudiced people standing against the world. It is this that makes the tale seem a bit too morality-laden for me.

The whites that hate the Indians are depicted as mean, nasty and cruel. The Indians who hate the whites are stereotypical hotheads who want to kill just to kill. Then when it is convenient for some to turn into understanding, tolerant citizens, they just make the switch. This creates a sense of total unreality and lacks the biting reality of the rest of the journey that is depicted in the book.

When the action centers on the search for Chayton and the developing love and relationship between Ridge and Emma, the story is engaging and warm, depicting life in the late 1800’s in the west. When the action centers on the prejudice, it loses focus and tends to drag. There were several times when reading that I found myself unexcited to pick up the book again. That is never a good sign.

To Find You Again is overall a fine tale of love in the old west. But there is just a little too much 21st-century political correctness thrown in for me to fully endorse it.

--Shirley Lyons


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