White Dove

White Flame

White Nights

White Dawn by Susan Edwards
(Leisure, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-4995-3
Emily Ambrose has experienced a lot of pain in her 16 years. Her religiously fanatical father was driving off with her mother in tow - abandoning Emily in the middle of the Michigan Territory - when Indians slaughtered them. Trying to make her way to safety, Emily is almost killed by a pack of wolves, when another Indian comes to her rescue. She finds love and passion in Swift Foot’s arms - only to have him abandon her out of sense of honor and duty.

Swift Foot cares deeply for Emily though, and he makes sure she is “rescued” by a local white trapper, John Cartier. John is a gentle man - taking in wounded animals and devoted to his grandfather. When he comes across Emily in the woods, he vows to bring her back from her pain. So begins the journey of one lost soul and the man who is determined to show her that safety, trust, love and friendship are possible.

For those keeping track, White Dawn is a prequel to Edwards’ first book White Wind. Since the White series now spans 7 books, the prequel status makes this an easy read for newcomers - there aren’t a lot of tedious past couples cluttering up the pages. Having only read one previous installment in this series, I was happy for this - as well as the family tree the author provides.

White Dawn works when the author puts her own spin on some of the more tried and true romance clichés. Every reader has read about the “I’ll never love again” hero, who finds happiness with the understanding and nurturing heroine. Edwards provides a clever twist by reversing the scenario. Emily has major trust issues - the poor girl keeps getting abandoned by people she loves. When John finally stumbles into her life, she’s naturally a little worried that he’s going to up and leave her too. For John’s part, he has to show Emily that he’s a trustworthy guy, and he does this by becoming her friend.

It’s also nice to finally come across a historical where the heroine doesn’t find her first, and only love with the hero. Emily loves Swift Foot. She cherishes the time they spent together, and his abandonment breaks her heart. What further elevates this subplot is that as the story moves on, the reader sees Emily questioning herself. Was she really in love with Swift Foot? What is love? What is it exactly that she feels for John?

Unfortunately, these interesting plot developments and characters suffer from other aspects of the story that don’t work nearly as well. First, there is a major pacing problem during portions of the story, most notably during the Swift Foot/Emily scenes. By the close of the chapter when she meets him, Emily is naturally wary and a little frightened of the Indian. By the beginning of the next chapter, she’s falling in love and having sex with him! There are also several instances where the author jumps ahead in time by several weeks, even months.

There’s also an issue with dialogue - there isn’t much of it. So much of the story is told through the thoughts of John, Emily, Swift Foot and other characters. In fact, Emily and Swift Foot do not communicate with words, as he refuses to speak English to her. This makes the story easy to put down and neglect. I was never anticipating getting back to my reading.

While the author does a good job of putting her own spin on some romance clichés, she unfortunately relies a little to heavily on another - the dastardly villain. In this case, it is John’s cousin, Willy - who is lazy, shiftless, selfish, and naturally wants the heroine for himself. As this is a prequel, the author is bound to the fact that Willy plays a role in White Wind, but he just didn’t work for me. I found him tedious more often than not, and with exception to one scene, he firmly stands in one-dimensional villain territory.

Fans of the White series will likely enjoy White Dawn, as it tells the story of the couple who raised the heroine of White Wind. Curious newcomers can feel safe in the fact that the prequel won’t have them lost among unnecessary appearances by past romantic couples. Edwards has some clever ideas, which should please western fans looking for something slightly different from the norm. Here’s hoping the pacing and dialogue issues are hammered out in future books.

--Wendy Crutcher

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