has also reviewed:

The Silver Sword

The Golden Cross
by Angela Elwell Hunt
(Waterbrook, $11.95, G) ISBN 1-57856-053-8
The Golden Cross is the second book in the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor trilogy. Each book features a red-haired heroine who tries to fulfill Cahira O'Connor's dying vow to "right the wrongs of men." While I enjoyed the first book, The Silver Sword, I found that The Golden Cross was disappointing because of its somewhat passive heroine and too-perfect hero.

Aidan O'Connor is one of the despised underclass in 17th century Batavia, a Dutch colony in Indonesia. Her father died on the sea voyage from England to Indonesia. Her mother, Lili, serves as barmaid and procuress of other unfortunate girls who must prostitute themselves in order to survive. Lili has protected Aidan, however, and the girl earns her keep at the age of 20 by picking pockets and serving ale, but not by lying with strange men.

Aidan has a special gift, an ability to draw pictures that come clear from the heart. When she introduces herself to the noted cartographer Schuyler Van Dyck, he immediately recognizes her incredible talent and invites her to live in his house while he teaches her more about art. Aidan, who desperately wants to become "respectable," agrees, despite the resentment of Schuyler's grown children. Then her new mentor is called away to serve on a sea voyage. He dreams up a daring deception so that Aidan can accompany him and help him draw the new species of plants and animals they will surely encounter. It is on board the ship that Aidan will meet the love of her life. She will also have to struggle with her own identity and her anger at God for making her life so difficult.

I found myself a little disappointed in Aidan. She has survived on the streets of Batavia and definitely has a strong-willed personality, but unlike the heroine in The Silver Sword, she relies on the men in her new life to rescue her repeatedly. Her true love, Sterling Thorne, a young physician, is so perfect that he comes off as slightly wooden. When Aidan admits her love for Sterling, it seems to make her even more passive.

The romance between Aidan and Sterling shares equal time with Aidan's, and Lili's, journey towards recognizing and embracing God's love. This makes The Golden Cross much more overtly religious than The Silver Sword. The only lovemaking occurs within the marital relationship, and it is alluded to rather than described. If you need explicit sexual scenes, you probably won't appreciate this series.

Although inspirational historical romances aren't usually my cup of tea, this author seems to be a strong one in a growing genre. Her settings are certainly unusual, and her writing style is smooth. Although I had my reservations about the hero and heroine, the supporting characters, especially Aidan's mentor Schuyler, are much more three-dimensional and interesting. I'll definitely read the remaining novel in the trilogy, The Velvet Shadow, which will be published in spring 1999 and will take place in Civil War America, but I'll probably not search for Hunt's back-list.

--Susan Scribner

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