Warrior's Woman by Laurie Paige
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1193, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-24193-3
***
Warrior's Woman is one of those books that can go either way, depending on your frame of reference and your expectations. The theme of the noble savage, illegitimate but worthwhile, coming to claim his birthright, doesn't affect me one way or the other. I'm rating this story squarely in the middle. It didn't float my boat, but it didn't sink it, either.

Dawn Erickson first sees Jackson Firebird McLean in the forest as he performs an Indian ceremony giving thanks for his meal. He has come to the McLean ranch to claim his inheritance. Dawn knows that his presence will upset her good friends, but his purpose in no way detracts from his animal magnetism. Jackson is the illegitimate son of now-deceased rancher John McLean. John never recognized Jackson while he was alive, but his will now gives half of his property to Jackson. You can guess how well that sits with John's widow and his acknowledged son Hunter. Can you say Family Feud?

The will is airtight; the McLean family must accept Jackson. They give him the logging operation to oversee. That's really all we hear of Jackson's duties. He spends most of his time remodeling an old cabin. He's not going to move there permanently, though. He's just remodeling it...adding four bedrooms, multiple bathrooms and a family room. As much time as he spends on it, I was beginning to wonder if he's planning to add on a library, a music room and an observatory. When Jackson isn't remodeling, he's fighting with Hunter. Or lusting after Dawn. Or telling himself, because of his Indian heritage, what an outsider he is.

When minor problems begin to occur, such as an open gate, and then escalate to more serious problems, Jackson is the likely culprit. This thread is so obvious that it's hard to give it much credence. The bad guy is conspicuous from the beginning. He's the only person who vocally dislikes Jackson for no reason, so it's pretty easy to decide that he's the pest.

My problem with Warrior's Woman was easy to spot. I need a strong hero, a man who, while he doesn't need to be perfect, at least needs a worthwhile direction, a focus. Plotting revenge against a family who really didn't know of your existence is rather pointless. Feeling sorry for yourself because of your heritage is self-defeating. Dawn loves him, yes, but why? He's constantly rebuffing her and telling her that he doesn't believe in marriage or children. After a while, I gave up on the guy because it takes more than a beautiful exterior to hold my attention. That cabin had more attraction for me than did Jackson.

His charm needs a little work, too. Here's his thought when he first sees Dawn in the forest. He would have scalped her if she'd applauded like a tourist at a sideshow. My dilemma regarding Jackson started at about this point. I never appreciated him and that translated into my ambivalence regarding Warrior's Woman.

As I stated at the beginning, this story can go either way. Maybe you'll appreciate Jackson more than I did.

--Linda Mowery


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