It’s not very often that I want to put a book down and not finish it, but I was very tempted to do so with Spirit’s Song by Madeline Baker. Though the plot eventually picked up and the characters became marginally more likable, the first one hundred pages ruined the rest of the book for me.
Kaylynn Summers has escaped the cruel clutches of her husband, only to be abducted by a party of Cheyenne warriors. She is given to the mother of one of the warriors as a slave. Strangely, Kaylynn comes to almost enjoy her situation – until the stranger “with cold gray eyes and a scarred face” arrives in the camp. Why is she so fascinated by him?
Why indeed? Jesse Yellow Thunder is a half-breed bounty hunter whose personality promises to be as ugly as his face. He comes to his mother’s village hoping to find another half-breed with a price on his head. While taking part in the Sun Dance festivities, he wins Kaylynn in a race. He treats her like a slave and chases her through the woods with the intention of “having” her. He treats her like a criminal when she tries to escape him, stupidly thinking her fear comes from his face and not the fact that he was going to rape her. He hits her and forces her to come with him when he takes his prisoner in. He also decides that he will have her – by force if necessary.
So, is it any wonder that I wanted Kaylynn to hook up with Ravenhawk, Jesse’s prisoner? He was much nicer to look at, and at least he saved her life. Unfortunately, Kaylynn appears to be one of those “too stupid to live” heroines who are insatiable gluttons for punishment. She decides to stay with Jesse. The fact that she saves his life causes him to warm to her – a bit. This change in character comes too late. I hated this man, and I hated Kaylynn for being attracted to him.
The plot is complicated by the fact that Kaylynn is married – to a vile man offering ten thousand dollars for her return. You can bet that he shows up in time to cause the couple plenty of trouble. There is also the fact that Jesse has sworn never to love another white woman after the last one’s father carved up his face.
The two have an abundance of sexual attraction to each other, a fact I didn’t understand since Kaylynn’s husband was a creep who degraded her sexually. Jesse has already proven himself just as capable of violence as Alan Summers, so how could Kaylynn trust him? Of course, she does, and they make love and end up happily ever after, but not before Jesse shows his ability to be a complete jerk several more times in the course of the book. Why didn’t the stupid woman go with Ravenhawk? Of course, Baker diminishes Ravenhawk’s appeal somewhat during the story. It’s not good to have a secondary character more appealing than the hero.
This is an intensely unlikable book. The characters ruined any chance of my enjoying the story. Kaylynn is completely unbelievable and unsympathetic. Any woman stupid enough to get involved with Jesse Yellow Thunder deserves what she gets. As for Jesse – he could have sprouted wings and a halo and I would have still hated him for his behavior in those first 100 pages. This book reminded me of the old “bodice rippers” where the hero had to be a complete and brutal jerk and the heroine a simpering idiot.
If you’re a die hard fan of the Indian Romance, you might find some redeeming qualities in this book. If you get past the first one hundred pages without hating Jesse, you’re obviously a lot more forgiving than I am. In fact, if you can get past the first 100 pages, you might actually enjoy the rest of the plot. But if you can’t forgive a hero who uses violence to subdue a woman, and roll your eyes at heroines who are more insipid than independent, don’t bother.
|Review Date:||March 6, 1999|