3, 2, 1...Married

Butterfly

Dark Water

Familiar Stranger

Mission Irresistible

Remember Me

Reunion

Roman's Heart

Royal's Child

Snowfall

Sweet Baby

Whipporwill

 
Rider on Fire by Sharon Sala
(Silh. Int. Mom. #1387, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-27457-2
***
After a drug arrest doesn't go quite the way it was planned, a Mexican drug lord threatens to make DEA agent Sonora Jordan pay for the loss she costs him. To protect her, her superior orders her to disappear until he is arrested. She jumps on her Harley-Davidson and hits the road without a clear idea of her destination. Little does she suspect that forces larger than her are guiding her to the father she never knew.

Franklin Blue Cat has just learned he has a daughter and asks his Kiowa healer to help him find her. Adam Two Eagles accepts the challenge and calls on the Old Ones to direct Sonora to the place where she belongs. When she finally arrives, he is not too surprised to discover she is the woman who has been haunting his dreams. Although he wants her to accept who she is and to acknowledge the powerful magic that surrounds her, he cannot deny their strong mutual attraction. As she too succumbs, she realizes she must first eliminate the danger that threatens both her and those she is learning to love.

In short, Rider on Fire is a fairly standard woman-in-danger story mixed with a good dose of Native American mysticism. Although most of it worked, I found enough gaps in the plot to make me wonder whether the story had been trimmed down from a much larger novel without double-checking for any resulting inconsistencies. For example, when Sonora first arrives, Adam accepts an invitation to breakfast on the condition that Frank makes fry bread (a Southwestern and Native American meal that, despite living in Phoenix, Sonora doesn't seem to know). That condition is completely ignored the next day when she makes biscuits instead. This is a fairly minor point and doesn't really alter the course of the story, but the unexpected change of mind did grate enough to interrupt my attention and ultimately disturb my pleasure.

Other plot omissions are more substantial. While the cast is larger than in other books of the same category, information is sparse and incomplete. I closed the book wondering what happened to the investigator who was last seen drinking coffee in a roadside diner. I also had a question or two about the main characters. Adam Two Eagles's youthful rebellion against his Native American heritage and his past in the Army Rangers are hinted at but never fully recounted. Similarly, we never learn why Sonora was abandoned on the steps of an orphanage, what happened to her mother and why the latter waited twenty-nine years before visiting Frank in a dream to tell him about their daughter's existence.

Aside from these problems with plot, I found Sonora somewhat unbelievable. She doesn't always behave as the tough biker chick and the experienced and valued DEA agent she is supposed to be. For one, she warms up very quickly to her newfound father - I was counting on a little more incredulity, hesitation and even anger from someone who has been trained to investigate and who still suffers the consequences of being abandoned. For another, Sonora is afraid of the dark. This might be a humanizing and almost endearing flaw if she didn't always fall to pieces when Adam was there to hold her. In fact, the only indication of Sonora's independence is in her comfort with her body and her sexual desires. While this is a trait I like in romance heroines, it is not the first thing that comes to mind about a butt-kicking superwoman.

Indeed, I began to wonder whether Sonora's proclamations of independence and self-sufficiency were empty words. I was even expecting her to allow Adam to star in the final showdown with the Mexican drug lord, but that fight is definitely hers. Almost, anyway. (It's probably pretty clear who the others involved are, but I can't say anything more.)

Despite these shortcomings, Sharon Sala knows enough about romantic suspense to make Rider on Fire an acceptable read. Hopefully, next time she will take more time to color in and finish the drawing instead of just sketching it.

--Mary Benn


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