by Maureen McKade, historical (2004)
Berkley, $6.50, ISBN 0-425-19709-3
I don't find any future Western historical romances in this author's upcoming books with Berkley, so To Find You Again may very well be the last historical romance we'll have from this author in a while. It's quite a pity, because the Western historical subgenre could use more books like To Find You Again. It has a strong main couple with depths and principles. The only drawback is the author allowing the story to unfurl in a superficial Hallmark-theatre manner that is just not worthy of the main characters.
Ridge Madoc has what seems like a typical Western hero mission: if he can find Emma Hartwell, who has run away from her family, and bring her back to Somerset, he will get the money he needs to start his own ranch. Ridge, a disillisioned former soldier who could no longer stomach his comrades' treatment of Native Americans, wants to forget his past and if he has to work with the man whom he had a property dispute with to get the money he needs to do so, so be it.
But Emma isn't a typical daughter of the town VIP. When she was eleven, she was captured by the Lakota Siouxs. They become her family and she even married and had a child with a Lakota warrior. It is only when soldiers attacked the tribe that her world changed. She was brutally attacked and was only spared when these soldiers realized that she was one of their own. She was finally reunited with her family, but she was an outcast in Somerset, even within her own family, and in the end she abandoned them to find her son Chayton whom she was separated from during that raid.
As Ridge ends up helping Emma as she looks for her son, difficult questions arise to complicate their attraction to each other. Emma and her son are truly people stuck between two worlds, unable to fully belong to one or the other. While Ridge is a more straightforward Disillusioned Noble Soldier hero, Emma is an interesting character. She is a strong-willed and intelligent heroine who can take care of herself. Ridge and Emma have a nice chemistry between them and the baggages they have only emphasize the bond they have with each other.
But the likeable main characters are stuck in a story that, while addresses complicated issues facing especially Emma, treats these issues as if they are trivial matters that can be solved with a hug at the end of the day. Ms McKade is especially guilty of using caricatures to make her life easier: the good guys are so saintly while the bad guys are psychotic villains. The reader isn't asked to consider the dilemmas of the main characters and make her own judgments, because Ms McKade is making the judgment for the reader. Open-minded tolerance is good, see? And bigotry is bad, as it should be. But we are talking about a story set in the nineteenth century where these issues will not magically fade away because some psychotic characters miraculously discover enlightenment and stop harassing Emma, Ridge, and Chayton at the end of the day.
I don't mind feel-good resolutions but in this case, the characters have depths and they deserve a better story, I can't help thinking, a story that brings out their richness in shades of grey instead of stark and simplistic black and white. I enjoy the story mainly because of the main characters, but I also can't help feeling disappointed at how Ms McKade dumbs down her story.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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