Time’s Captive by Kate Lyon
(Dorchester, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52602-6
Give me a heroine with some common sense and a modicum of intelligence any day. In this debut book, a combination time travel and western romance, the heroine regrettably lacks both.

Our heroine Kris Baldwin has traveled from modern times to Texas circa 1870's.

(Or at least that’s my guess. An information sheet with the ARC states Oklahoma in the 1700's, and that can’t be right.)

She immediately meets up with Black Eagle, Comanche warrior, who saves her from drowning. He was on a vision quest at the time and believes that the Great Spirit has sent her to tell his people how to save themselves from the whites who are killing all the buffalo and destroying the native way of life. Even though she seems oblivious of any useful knowledge and denies she’s been sent with a message, he is taking her to speak to the war council. On the way, while she’s skinning dipping in a river (heroines like this always do that), another Comanche, Isatai, brutally attacks her, but Black Eagle fights him off.

So what’s she going to do? She’s in a strange time and the only other person she’s met assaulted her. Well, golly, wouldn’t you just know it? She’s bound and determined to escape from Black Eagle so she steals his horse, gallops off to the Comanche village and begs the assistance of the chief.

As she rides away, she says, “I can take care of myself.”

(Now this is an important clue because whenever a heroine says she can take care of herself, you can bet she can’t!)

She rides into the middle of the village, and guess what? They’re immediately hostile and begin attacking her with fists and weapons. Kris, who is part Comanche, insists that she’s there as a friend, but they’re not listening. And who shows up next but Isatai?

Just in the nick of time before she’s simultaneously raped and killed, Black Eagle arrives. What does our grateful heroine say to this guy who’s rescued her not once but several times?

“Where the hell have you been?”

(Jeez Louise, I hate a dumb heroine. What was the Great Spirit thinking choosing to bring this airhead back through time? Wouldn’t someone with a little sense have been a better choice?)

Kris is familiar with the history of this period and knows the inevitable future of these people. She does speak to the council advising them that they must submit to the white man’s demands because the only alternative is to be killed. Naturally, this is not a popular message and is met with resistance and hostility.

Kris cannot stay away from outrageous behavior – early in the story she kicks a lusty Comanche woman out of a tipi and calls her a slut – and controversy. Time and time again Black Eagle comes to her rescue. Lust and love inevitably ensue.

The major weakness of this book is the romance. We’re told, not shown, that each has fallen in love with the other. It’s hard to understand why Black Eagle would fall in love with the irritating Kris, a member of a race he has come to despise. Black Eagle’s aunt is in favor of the match from the get-go. Surely there’s at least one eligible Comanche maiden in the camp who’d be a better niece-in-law than Kris. In spite of this being such a dangerous time for the Comanche and other native tribes, there sure are a lot of interested persons with time on their hands eager to gossip about how Black Eagle’s got the hots for the Great Spirit’s messenger and vice versa.

The narrative’s pace picks up once the warriors go against the white men and Kris resolves to do what she can to save them from slaughter. The time-travel element – Kris’s Comanche grandmother is pulling the strings – becomes more significant near the end of the book.

The story appears to be well-researched and based on the history of the period. Quanah Parker, the half-white Comanche chief, is a secondary character. The tone is decidedly sympathetic towards him and his people. How unfortunate that at least in this book Kris should be their last best hope.

--Lesley Dunlap

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