Grey Eagle's Bride by Jessica Wulf
(Zebra, $4.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-6004-1
****
Grey Eagle's Bride is an entertaining and intelligent story, although it works to overcome a few stock secondary characters. Readers who especially enjoy Indian romances may want to give this one a look.

Diana Murdoch is living at Fort Laramie, circa 1851, assisting her physician father. Doc Murdoch is not long for this world, however and Diana is trying to come to terms with what her life will be after he dies. As the story opens, she is returning a wounded eagle to the wild. Franklin, the eagle, has formed quite an attachment to Diana, which figures prominently in the story. Diana also rescues an Indian child from slavery by trading two buffalo hides for her. The girl, Sparrow, becomes Diana's devoted "little sister".

Grey Eagle Beaudine, half-Cheyenne son of a white frontiersman, is restless living in his familiar Cheyenne village. He's been troubled by dreams of a woman, one who has something to do with an eagle. Grey Eagle can't quite figure it out, but he knows that this mysterious woman is his destiny. Meanwhile, he's busy trying to fend off the unwanted attentions of the lovely widow Black Moon, who has set her sights on Grey Eagle.

When Doc Murdoch dies, Jessica carries on at the fort, tending to occasional wounds and wondering what will become of her. An estranged mother and sister living in St. Louis don't seem to figure in her future; nor does Sparrow, who has been returned to her village. Diana is also plagued by the advances of a lascivious lieutenant who is determined to force her into marriage. When word comes that her old acquaintance, frontiersman Jubal Sage, is injured and needs her help, Diana is happy to ride out and see what she can do.

Alas, it's all a ploy for the lieutenant to get her alone and force himself on her, with the intention of wedding her afterward. Diana is saved by the intervention of Grey Eagle, who quickly recognizes her as his mysterious Eagle Woman. Now he must convince her that they are destined to be together. He'll take her to his Cheyenne village.

This all sounds very stock and indeed there isn't much new in the way of a plot here. What saves this story from being another ho-hum Indian romp is the intelligence of the lead characters. Diana is no wide-eyed innocent, enthralled by Grey Eagle's sleek muscles (although at one point, she does refer to him as "noble" in her mind). She's seen blood and death, and she willingly goes with Grey Eagle in an attempt to find Sparrow and whatever sort of "family" she can create for herself.

Grey Eagle, in turn, speaks English (thank heavens) so the reader is spared dialogue of the "Me Grey Eagle" variety. He's chosen to live with the Cheyenne and is a trusted friend and warrior to the tribe. His uncertainty as to how best to win Diana was charming, as was his determination not to fall into Black Moon's clutches.

Black Moon, in fact, was the sour spot in the book for me. Can't there be an Indian romance without a scheming Indian woman lusting after our hero? And to read this book, one would think that the Cheyenne answer to everything unpleasant is to simply kill it. Black Moon wants to kill off Diana. Another brave who lusts after Black Moon decides that Grey Eagle must die. If the Indians truly handled their disagreements by simply plotting to kill each other off, there wouldn't have been many left.

There were a few spots of modern dialogue along the way, such as Black Moon deciding that Diana is a "bitch" and Diana threatening to use a frypan "upside his head", but these are kept to a minimum and didn't detract much from the story.

All in all, Grey Eagle's Bride is an enjoyable, fast-paced, and intelligent romance. Readers who like this one may want to check out the previous books about the Beaudines.

--Cathy Sova


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