Before The Dawn
by Beverly Jenkins, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81375-0


It is so nice to read about a heroine like Leah Barnett in Beverly Jenkins' latest Western historical romance Before The Dawn. She mourns for a father figure, but she doesn't burst into waterworks or let people manipulate her grief. She is refreshingly level-headed, sober, and intelligent, and best of all, she needs no man to save her from the villain. She can take care of herself!

Too bad that hero Ryder Damien is like a minor, underwritten character in the story.

Still, Before The Dawn is a solid romance that I enjoy thoroughly. Leah Barnett marries her late mother's dying boyfriend for security. However, she is unprepared to learn that Louis "Monty" Montague had two sons, Ryder Damien and Seth, whom Monty wanted Leah to find and make peace with. Nonetheless, accompanied by Monty's long-time accomplice Cecil, Leah prepares to leave her Boston hometown for the first time in her life to travel to the Colorado Rockies. The tavern keeper is about to see the world for the first time in her life, and she can't wait.

Leah soon learns that Monty and Cecil aren't the lovable men she believed them to be. Monty of the old days was an unscrupulous mine owner who put profits above his employee's safety. Monty was also a ruthless womanizer who left two women (a wife and a mistress) dead under suspicious circumstances. Leah, Monty's widow, soon finds the welcome wagon filled with sour-faced people with a score to settle. When she finds herself slapped with a huge fine (a leftover from Monty's past) she can't pay, she finds herself propositioned by Ryder - become his mistress and he'll get her out of the mess, or else.

Ryder makes me roll my eyes. What a tool. Here is a man who is convinced that his hated daddy's widow is a fortune hunter, but because she is so beautiful, so hot, his dynamite gets all fired up. What a tool, really. Compound his bad taste in women with his one-note alpha act and his boorish way with words and I get a Grade A Tool. Leah is too good for him.

Oh, Leah, now that's a heroine. Strong-willed and intelligent, she doesn't fly into immediate denial or hysterical tears when she is faced with the realization that Monty may not be a nice person. No Electra complex for this woman, and yes, she loves her late Momma too. Hurrah for a stable, smart heroine! I enjoy reading her story and exploits, and I wish she has a better husband. Ryder is such a tool.

The plot isn't much to scream about, I admit, and the mistress propositioning thing really makes me roll my eyes. The main crux of Before The Dawn, however, is Leah's finding love and herself, and that's a good story.

The author's style is engaging as always, and while the story has some rough patches here and there, the final product is an enjoyable read with adequate suspense towards the end to keep my attention engaged. A blunt nail for a hero aside, Before The Dawn is Beverly Jenkins in fine form.

Rating: 88


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