Nighthawk by Kristen Kyle
(Love Spell, $5.50, R), ISBN 0-505-52184-9
Futuristic romance fans, there's a bright star on the horizon. Kristen Kyle has written a winner in her first romance, Nighthawk. If this is a true measure of her talent, we have a lot to look forward to!

The action takes place in a three-planet solar system where a dictatorial force has long since overthrown the native governments. Talon, a smuggler by trade, stops in at a space station to see his brother Rand, leader of the Rebel forces who are harassing the dictatorial regime. The brothers keep their relationship a secret. Talon can't join the Rebel forces, for reasons beyond his control, but he will do whatever he can to assist his adored brother.

Including breaking him out of prison when soldiers raid the space station. Talon manages to escape, but Rand is captured and sent to a loathsome prison colony. Talon manages to rescue him, taking along a hostage as he does. She's Kari Solis, and her father is the dictator.

Kari is a fairly complex character. Trained as an operative, she constantly seeks her father's approval and never seems to attain it. She's intelligent, sensitive, and all-too-aware of her duty, which is to capture this smuggler somehow and turn him over to the soldiers. But the pieces aren't adding up, and maybe there's more behind her father's machinations that she knows.

Talon has his share of secrets, too. His hands are always covered in gloves. Horrible disfigurement? Maybe. The custom of the time is to have a family tattoo on the backs of the hands. Convicts have theirs stripped, leaving horrible scars. Talon isn't telling. And I won't spill his secret, but it took me by surprise and then made perfect sense.

As the story unfolds, Kari finds she must choose between loyalty to her father or trust in this man, Talon, who is everything she has dreamed of in a personal hero. Kari is the perfect foil for Talon's hardened exterior and underlying belief that no woman could find him worthy of love. Add to that Kari's evil half-brother, Niall, who is bent on destroying her, and you have the means for an excellent story. Action, plenty of romance, and a cast of supporting characters who richly deserve their own novels make this a very satisfying read, indeed.

Plus, there are these little creatures called Sylphs… I won't spoil it, but I sure wish I had one around my house!

Ms. Kyle has a clean, crisp writing style. There is no lapse into techno-babble, no covering plot holes with endless jargon or useless action. Everything has a purpose. Kari and Talon don't fall in love at first sight; they have to earn it. The adventures they share don't always turn out easily and happily; there's a price to be paid. It made the romance all the sweeter. And hotter. The love scenes were worth the wait.

Kari has a problem with trust, and that was my only minor reservation about the book. It seemed like she held on to her "I can't trust him" attitude just a bit too long.

But overall, this was an excellent read. I sure hope there's a sequel, because the futuristic sub-genre needs more writers and stories of this caliber. Plus, I really want to see what happens to Rand and his buddies.

--Cathy Sova

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