After the Thunder

The Renegades: Cole

The Renegades: Nick
by Genell Dellin
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-80353-4
Callie Sloane came out west to start a new life for herself and her unborn child. Originally from the Cumberland Mountains in Kentucky, her father banished her from her home after he learned she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, her lover dies and Callie finds herself very alone. In a last ditch effort to provide for her child, she travels to the Cherokee strip in Oklahoma to participate in the now famous Land Run of 1893.

Nickajack “Nick” Smith is a half-Cherokee renegade who is disgusted by what he considers the rape of his homeland. The government all but robbed the Nation of this land and he for one is determined to hang on to the cabin where he grew up. He’s not above breaking the rules, and does just that, staking his claim before the official gunshot.

Then along comes Callie, who mistakenly tries to jump his claim. In a moment of weakness, he rips her flag from his land and firmly plants it on the adjoining plot. The last thing he wanted was foolhardy homesteaders trying to farm the impossible, and now he has actually helped one of them by securing her a claim!

Callie and Nick are immediately drawn to each other, but both are bound and determined to squash their mutual growing attraction. After all, Callie is pregnant by another man, and she feels incredibly disloyal to her lover’s memory by fantasizing about Nick. A beautiful woman once betrayed Nick and it cost people their lives. He has made up his mind to spend his life in seclusion. But they can’t deny their growing attraction, especially since fate keeps throwing them together.

Both Callie and Nick behaved in a manner so infuriating at times, I wanted to reach through the pages and strangle them. Callie is pregnant, unmarried, and passing herself off as a widow. OK, so the woman has to lie a bit, but she continually hides the truth from Nick, even after they come together in several moments of passion. There’s also a “big misunderstanding” at the end that could easily have been avoided, if she had bothered to tell him straight out what she had done.

Nick’s biggest crime is that after the “big misunderstanding” he lumps Callie in the same class as the “other woman” who betrayed him. One lying, treacherous woman automatically seals the fate of one who’s trying to do right by him. I was less than sympathetic.

Callie and Nick do somewhat make up for these shortcomings by the wicked sexual tension that is apparent between them. Sure they try their best to deny their feelings for each other, but no matter how hard they try, they are continually drawn into each other’s arms. One kiss between these two and the book almost bursts into flames.

Dellin’s descriptions of the homesteader lifestyle were also right on target, and quite refreshing. So often western romances are set in happy, picturesque little towns where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Not so out on the Cherokee strip! Life is hard. Callie has to try and build shelter, which means a sod house in the middle of a scorching drought. The nearest town is full of lawless men, saloons, and claim-jumpers, while the only way to grab a little piece of justice is to bribe someone.

I enjoyed The Renegades: Nick and while Callie and Nick had me rolling my eyes at the “big misunderstanding,” I did find them a likeable pair. Tossing them in the middle of near impossible odds, in an unpredictable countryside with bad guys just added to my enjoyment. Callie and Nick realizing their true feelings and confessing them to each other would have been more than enough for this reader.

--Wendy Crutcher

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