Heart of Texas

The Moon & Stars

Ride the Wind

Tykota's Woman

Hawk's Pledge
by Constance O'Banyon
(Leisure, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5635-6
If Hawk's Pledge is any indication of where the Western is going, fuggedaboutit! It is as washed out and worn through as a dirty, old bandana. When I wasn't hearing cheesy Spaghetti western music and bad dialogue, I was seeing Mary Pickford tied to the railroad tracks. Not that the heroine has any of the charms of America's onetime sweetheart.

Whit Hawk earns his living as a gambler while he searches postwar Texas for his brother (camera pans the dry plains as theme song plays). He has no friends and, with the exception of his missing brother, no family (theme song fades into lonesome cowboy blues). His mother took off with a lover. His father left the four children to search for gold in California. His two younger sisters allegedly perished in a fire at the orphanage. Whit wasn't around to save them and so feels responsible for their deaths.

When Whit's horse goes lame, he accepts Jacqueline Douglas's hospitality (string orchestra plays romantic tune). He helps out on her family ranch while waiting for the hoof to heal. Whit and Jackie are very attracted to each other (music rises to a crescendo and cymbals clash). But he has a mission to accomplish, not to mention that tortured hero thing. So he heads off to Galveston, leaving her to huff and puff and toss her fiery red hair (no music necessary, her huffing would drown it out anyway).

Jackie has her own mission: the bank is about to foreclose on her mortgage (villain music in the background). If she doesn't pay it off, she will lose her family ranch. She could always marry her rich neighbor (more villain music), but she would rather hold out for real love. Guess who comes to her rescue (with bugles tooting loudly in the distance)? In Whit's trail follows an old Hawk family enemy, Simon Gault, who really gets into doing the mustache-twirling, villainous villain thing.

The novel is as awful as it sounds, but it didn't have to be. I could have overlooked the predictable plot and the clichéd characters (I've sat through my share of Clint Eastwood westerns and enjoyed them) if the writing weren't so purple. With dialogue that sounds like a badly dubbed Brazilian soap opera, Hawk's Pledge practically begs to be laughed at. "I am about to become your worst nightmare," Whit threatens his archenemy. The very next second, he loses the heavy duty Terminator pose and goes archaic on us: "I don't approve of craven men who hurt women." Craven? Yeah, right. That's really bound to make someone drop his gun belt. Each character has his preferred verb. The villain "snarls." The hero "groans" and "growls." The heroine, well, she has more lexical variety, but it always amounts to the same thing: she yields her enflamed body to his soft touches, then horrified with her boldness, hoists her head and stomps off. She is a real lesson in how not to be a heroine.

Hawk's Pledge is first in a multi-authored series about the four Hawk orphans. They have to be much better to catch up after this bad start. Stomp. Stomp. Snarl.

--Mary Benn

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