Texas Jade by Holly Harte
(Zebra, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-5926-4
***
Texas Jade is the middle book in a three part series that chronicles three generations of Texas healing women. Set just after the Civil War in the Davis Mountains of Texas, author Holly Harte describes the obstacles facing women engaged in the healing arts in that era, and the travails of the Mescalero Indians who refer to themselves as the Nde. Harte's story draws upon much of their lore in the spiritual realm, particularly the visions that direct their lives. During this period, their entire population was being "resettled" and some of that history also surfaces in Texas Jade.

Nde Healer Jade Tucker has been directed by the Spirits in a vision to seek out the man who is destined to be a part of her life. Searching the mountains, she finds Eli Kinmont unconscious from an injury. She takes him back to her house to recover. Although he accepts her healing skills and hospitality, he still lends new dimension to the term ingrate.

Jade is the also the assistant to the Fort Davis Army Post Surgeon, Dr. Chadbourne. When he is temporarily called away, she is left to face the prejudices against women in the healing arts.

Jade discovers Eli is a trained physician who for some reason has stopped practicing medicine to become a trapper. She keeps trying to get Eli to talk about his past, and he repays her kindness with continuing rudeness. In spite of his attitude she falls in love with him.

As Jade tries to break through the barrier of Eli's bitterness, he gradually begins to teach her more medical skills. Harte has been especially clever in this concept of the evolution of healing through three generations. Her characters are, for the most part, well drawn, although the pacing is, at times, a bit uneven.

Although impressed with the originality of the plot, Texas Jade was an awkward read for me. While a well researched historical novel, the dialogue and content weren't always consistent with the period. Although the dialogue was concise and clever in places, I never had the feeling that I was vicariously living in the 19th century. If this isn't as important for you as it is for me, then Texas Jade may be a good choice for a summer read.

--Thea Davis


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