Wild Hawk by Justine Dare
(Topaz, $5.50, R) ISBN 0-451-40657-5
****
Bastard sons make for interesting reading. And bastard sons of men who are real bastards -- if you can follow that -- are even more interesting because right away you know two things. One, the son will be independent and determined, always nice traits in a hero. And two, there will probably be a little revenge in the plot, which gives the reader something to root for. So it was with great relish that I jumped right onto the new contemporary fantasy Wild Hawk, by Silhouette author Justine Davis, writing under the name of Justine Dare.

I think Ms. Dare is onto something here. If this is a sampling of her shift into midlist romance, she's got a bright future ahead of her. This was a good read.

Jason West has returned to the little town of Sunridge for his father's funeral. Not a tear will be shed, though, because the father, industrialist Aaron Hawk, hadn't seen his son in twenty years. The illegitimate product of an affair, Jason has nothing but bitterness toward the man who refused to acknowledge him. Returning to Sunridge to laugh at the graveside seems a fitting way to say goodbye.

Jason's reapparance stuns Aaron's widow, Alice, a greedy manipulator in the best tradition. Realizing that Jason could challenge the will, she quickly sets out to get rid of him. Jason has a new ally, though, in Kendall Chase, Aaron's executive assistant and the one person who knew him well.

Kendall knows that Aaron was trying to find Jason and make some sort of peace with him, but Jason isn't buying it. And Kendall knows there was a codicil written to Aaron's will bequeathing millions of dollars to Jason, and she now has the only copy, thanks to Alice's deviousness. If they can outwit Alice's hired thug, they might be able to hit her where it will hurt the most -- in the pocketbook.

Finally, there's The Book. This is where the fantasy element came into the story. Jason is now the last male Hawk in a line that goes back centuries. Whenever the Hawk line threatens to die out, The Book reappears. This book is a family history that fills itself in as the story moves along, and Jason can't get rid of it (and boy, does he ever try!). Drawn to the history of the family in spite of his hatred of his father, Jason's journey is one of acceptance of his lineage and his newfound love with Kendall, and revenge against the person who destroyed his parents: Alice.

There's lots of nastiness and double-dealing in this story, and a few twists at the end which help resolve the story in a more realistic way than staging a bloodbath. Jason and Kendall are a "right" couple; I didn't have any trouble picturing them together. The Book was a fun twist. And while I had some reservations about Jason's rise from street punk to his current position in the book (would it really have happened so fast?) it didn't detract much from an otherwise engrossing read.

The characterizations in this book were top-notch. Evil Alice, Reluctant Jason, and Encouraging Kendall all stayed true to character throughout. Kendall is really the strongest person in the story, for all that it's Jason's tale of revenge. She know's what's what, and she knows how to make Jason see it. I liked it. I liked her.

Justine Dare has served up a fine tale for romance lovers. Wild Hawk satisfies on every level.

--Cathy Sova


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