Hawk's Woman
by Janice Reams Hudson
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-5897-7
****
Hawk, the half-breed son of a Comanche woman and a wealthy white landowner, met his "woman" Abby McCormick when she was 6 and he was 9, when schoolboys were beating him and she came roaring to his defense. Their friendship blossomed, as Abby undertook to tutor him since his half-breed status prohibited his attending school. Initially, it was the alphabet, but things were well out of hand by the time Abby was approaching 18.

Hawk and Abby are planning marriage, when Hawk is jumped by some unidentified men, beaten into unconsciousness, and loaded onto a slow freighter bound for Brazil.

Abby, devastated when told that Hawk is dead, is packed off to Boston by her father. Once there, she very quickly meets and marries the son of an Italian count and gives birth to a daughter. Her new husband is killed in an accident and, within a year, she returns to the family ranch in Texas.

Three years later, Hawk returns, embittered and sworn to wreak vengeance on the party or parties responsible for his involuntary expatriation.

Up until this point, which was about a fifth of the way through the book, Hawk's Woman was proceeding on a fairly predictable course. Then, unexpectedly, Hudson started twisting the plot in different directions. These plot twists revealed previously hidden dimensions in her characters that tied in perfectly with the direction that Hawk's Woman took.

After a rather slow start, Hudson, through artful creativity, greatly elevated what could have been a very pedestrian western. Equally impressive is the fact that her plot twists evolved naturally without feeling contrived. I did notice that the 19th century characters spoke as if they were living in the 20th century but it didn't hinder my enjoyment. But these minor criticisms were more than outweighed by an inventive, unpredictable plot and skilled character development.

--Thea Davis


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