Always in My Heart

Annie's Song

Baby Love

Blue Skies

Bright Eyes

Cherish

Forever After

Keegan's Lady

Morning Light

My Sunshine

Only By Your Touch

Phantom Waltz

Seventh Heaven

Simply Love

Star Bright

Summer Breeze

Sun Kissed

Sweet Nothings

 
Early Dawn
by Catherine Anderson
(Signet, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978 0-0451-22874-1
****
A number of Catherine Andersonís western historicals sit on my keeper shelves.† She and Jodi Thomas were my favorite authors in this subgenre.† Perhaps because of my own penchant for pigeonholing authors, I did not follow Anderson when she began to write contemporaries so itís been a number of years since I read one of her books.† I had forgotten her ability to write a fast moving, engrossing adventure story.† Early Dawn reminded me why I enjoyed her books.† There is danger aplenty, a strong heroine, a worthy hero and tender love story.

As authors are wont to do and as readers often demand, Anderson has chosen as her heroine a secondary character from previous novels, Eden Paxton.† These two stories - Keeganís Bride and Summer Breeze - were written fourteen and five years ago which means few if any of Andersonís even most loyal fans have much memory of the circumstances that brought the heroine to the start of the story.† Anderson performs her authorial responsibility of providing the reader who is not familiar with the backstory with the requisite details.† But there is a different quality to such background information when it is rooted in previous books.†† My single complaint with Early Dawn is that I felt both that I was not enough in the know about the Paxton past and that I was getting too much information.† Paradoxical, I know, but thatís the way it was.

The story opens with the heroís awakening from a coma.† Gradually, Matthew Coulter realizes that he and his young wife have been victims of a vicious gang that has been terrorizing people from Oregon where he lives all the way to the Mexican border.† The Sebastians have left a trail of death and destruction in their wake and have, but their cunning and ruthlessness, been able to avoid capture. After beating Matthew into unconsciousness, the gang had raped and killed his wife pregnant Olivia.† They had left Matthew for dead, but he had survived.† He makes it his lifeís work to track the Sebastianís and to eliminate them.† There are five still left.

Eden Paxton and her mother Dory are on their way from San Francisco to her brotherís ranch outside of Denver.† Until recently, they had had a respected place in the cityís society; indeed, Eden had been engaged to a scion of one if its first familyís.† But said family had decided that Edenís unconventional background was unacceptable.† Not only had her fiancť† broken the engagement, but to excuse his caddish behavior, he and has family had spread the true story of Edenís birth, that she was the result of her motherís rape.† Suddenly, doors that had been open to the Paxton women were shut in their faces, so the two are seeking refuge with the rest of the family.† Eden worries that even in No Name, Colorado, the truth about her birth will come out.

What should have been an ordinary trip turns tragic when the Sebastians rob the† train.† The gang decides to take beautiful, red-haired with them, for both pleasure and profit.† They plan to sell her in Mexico.† Matthew comes across the train as he pursues his enemies.† He goes after the gang, both to rescue Eden, but also because thatís his life.† He frankly doubts that the woman will survive the Sebastianís brutality, but Eden is stronger than her citified appearance suggests.† While they do not rape her Ė their ďcustomerĒ pays very well for virgins Ė they brutalize her in every other possible way.† After five days in their hands, Edenís spirit is nearly broken when Matthew appears and slips away with her.† But Matthew knows the Sebastians will come after them so rather than take the obvious course and head for Denver, the two must flee into the wilderness.† The trek will allow Eden to heal and to learn exactly how fine a man Matthew is.† It will allow Matthew to put his past tragedy behind him and discover how to love again.

Eden is a strong heroine.† Her early hardscrabble years had given her skills unheard of for a young woman who had spent a decade as a San Francisco socialite.† Her ladylike behavior, drummed into her by her mother, never completely took.† Matthew discovers a woman very difficult from his gentle Olivia, but one worth loving.† Matthew has spent three years far from family and society in his lonely quest for revenge.† Yet his basic goodness makes him a most attractive hero.

Hereís an interesting fact: until I set out to write this review, I never saw what, in retrospect, seems to be a big hole in the plot.† When Matthew comes across the drunkenly sleeping Sebastians, he chooses to spirit Eden away rather than kill the brothers in their bedrolls.† The reason offered is that this would put Eden in danger, but frankly, Matthew, well-armed and an expert marksman, should have been able to take them out.† But then there wouldnít have been the great, life-changing adventure that the hero and heroine share.† It speaks to Andersonís ability to tell an exciting story and keep me turning the pages, that this unlikely development never occurred to me.† This is the mark of good writing.†

--Jean Mason


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