Lakota Legacy
by Madeline Baker, Kathleen Eagle, and Ruth Wind; assorted (2003)
Silhouette, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-21810-9

Three authors come together to contribute to an anthology of cross-cultural romance between a Lakota hero and a White heroine. Kathleen Eagle and Ruth Wind contribute very good novellas. Madeline Baker can now run away and hide her face in shame now.

Madeline Baker's Wolf Dreamer - the only historical novella - is only two alphabets more literate than an average Cassie Edwards story. A badly-written and laughably awful story incorporating every overused bad plot device in the Native American romance subgenre, this one has Rebecca Hathaway losing her husband and her unborn kid one after the other. She is nursed by Wolf Dreamer and is taken back to his tribe, where the obligatory Native American Jealous Woman tries to stir up trouble. Rebecca is a cardboard character, appropriately helpless and only stupid to live (instead of too stupid to live) while Wolf Dreamer's sole reaction to Rebecca losing her husband and kid is nonchalance and maybe a little joy that she, the woman he has been spying on and dreaming at night, has lost her husband so he doesn't have to go through the trouble of kidnapping her from her husband. This one is truly horrible and I feel my brain shrinking as I turn the pages. How did this stinker end up in the same book as the other two novellas, I will never know.

Kathleen Eagle's Cowboy Days And Indian Nights is an intimate and nicely written tale of Meredith Woodward taking in a battered drifter named Ryder Red Hawk and his dog only to find love with her new tenant. Meredith is a well-written heroine with real vulnerabilities and Ms Eagle manages to evoke Meredith's loneliness so well that my heart feels like aching along with Meredith's. Ryder is a lonely man too with a sad past, and he and his dog charm his way into Meredith's heart - and mine. My only complain about this story is that the author drags the story a little too long and the middle portions of the novella sags a little.

Ruth Wind offers the best story of the bunch. Seven Days sees Michael Chasing Horse noticing his city woman neighbor Sunny Kendricks for the first time when he and the firefighters are trying to stop a fire during Colorado's drought season. She makes fried chicken, potato salad, and tea for everyone. When her eighteen-month old daughter Jessie sits on Michael's lap and says, "Wow!", Michael is a goner. Set during one of the worst droughts Colorado has ever experienced, the overheated and arid atmosphere of this novella is so well-done that I almost had to turn on the air-conditioner. But what I really love about this novella is how real Michael and Sunny are. They are no stereotypes - Sunny is no silly city woman screaming for help: she's a determined heroine with brains and guts. Michael and she have been in marriages that don't work out, but these characters' familiar baggages are never portrayed in a stark black-and-white "my exes are bitches and bastards" manner. The emotions, the heartbreak, and the healing are all wonderfully done here. As a bonus, that kid Jessie is just adorable. We should sell kids like Jessie from pet stores so that everybody can adopt one. Just kidding.

My only reservation about this novella is that in 127 pages, a drought, several fires, and a tornado hit Colorado hard. Is Colorado really that dangerous?

Two really good novellas and one really bad novella make up Lakota Legacy. Still, two really good out of three isn't too bad in this case, not when the two are some of the best novellas I'm across with real people that feel real emotions. It's just too bad that Madeline Baker doesn't measure up even close to her fellow sister authors that contributed to Lakota Legacy. If anything, this anthology only emphasizes the great divide within the Native American romance subgenre: the good ones can be really good while the bad ones can make one want to chew on radioactive pellets to remove the bitter aftertaste.

Rating: 78

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