Eagle is a fast-paced page-turner with a willful heroine who truly meets her match in hero Gold Eagle. Although the bad guys are under developed, the strong plot, dramatic tension, and truly black final climax make Eagle an exciting read.
Privileged Mallory Tompkins is determined to overcome the sexism that prevents her from being taken seriously as a newspaperwoman, so she defies her father’s will and heads west to Fort Larned to find out and report the truth about the “Indian situation.” Gold Eagle is white, but has been raised by the Cheyenne from the age of three, and is Cheyenne to the core. A chance happening provides him a way to infiltrate Fort Larned in the guise of a mute botanist, where he seeks confirmation of the rumor that a large force is coming to break the uneasy peace that Gold Eagle’s chief has established. There is a second hero in this story, Lieutenant Charles Moore, who is as appealing in his way as Eagle. Lt. Moore has been given charge of Mallory while she is conducting her business and he goes to heroic lengths to fulfill his duty.
The strength of this book lies in its appealing heroes and heroine and the steady building of dramatic tension in the plot. Mallory is stubborn, courageous, and impulsive, but intelligent enough to recognize when she has plunged in over her head. Supremely confident, she plows through any man who gets in her way, but finds an immovable object in Eagle. Eagle never breaks character. He is fiercely savage and all male, and he recognizes Mallory as a woman he has to have. He doesn’t give in easily to her allure, however, and an amusing refrain throughout this story is Eagle mentally chanting, “I don’t need her; I don’t want her. I don’t need her . . . .” Lt. Moore’s love, courage, and determination to save Mallory no matter what the cost adds pathos to the tale. Ms. Barbieri does a good job of skipping from one character’s point of view to another in brief scenes that build the suspense and propel the tale forward at a rapid pace.
The book’s weak point is the chief bad guy, Captain Tierney. As a character he is underdeveloped, and there is no real motivation given for his unrelenting evil behavior, which makes him a flat stereotype of all that is despicable in man. The ease with which he fools and manipulates his superiors is a bit hard to swallow. The captain’s consummate hatred of the Indians and the idealized portrayal of the Cheyenne village is a bit of a stale stereotype as well, but Ms. Barbieri does not totally fall into the trap of making one side all good and the other all evil. For the most part, she does portray people as individuals, and there are admirable and good people on both sides to offset the bad ones.
All in all Eagle provides a fast, suspenseful and entertaining read.