by Genell Dellin, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80353-4

I've read and enjoyed the last book in The Renegades series, Cole, because it has at least an interesting heroine. No such luck in Nick, which is like ten steps backwards for the author, because it has two of the most dreadful Plot Device I can think of in a romance: big misunderstanding and the hero, wronged by an ex, who thinks that all women are evil.

How more broken can a broken record get?

Callie Sloane is ecstatic when she found herself a patch of land in the Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893. She has lost her home, banished after she was pregnant with her now dead lover's child. At last, here is a chance for her to start life anew!

Uhm, not quite. Nickajack Smith - Nick to everyone - is mad that the government is stiffing the Cherokees of their land, and he is determined to keep the land where his cabin is built on even if he has to cheat to do it. So he transplanted Callie's flag with his own.

Both refuse to give way, however, so both end up neighbors. And soon, neighborly dislike blossoms into reluctant attraction. She's trying to be faithful to the memory of her lover, after all, and Nick, well, he's been wronged before and now he hates all women. Callie is pretending to be a widow, and boy, when her secrets are blown out in the open, Nick happily plunges the whole story into big misunderstanding time.

That's Nick's screaming for mercy you hear as I cheerful lock him in a room full of annoying Care-bears.

Thing is, I like Callie. Here is a woman who has survived hardships, homelessness, and every duress a romance heroine can face, but she emerges stronger for it. To see her end up tagging after Nick like a forlorn puppy for his affections make me see red. If Nick hates women so much, hey, he can always go dip his head into a bucket of horse pee or something. His behavior is annoying and really gets old fast.

There's some history and a rather nice sense of place, and the heroine's rather good. Too bad about the whole contrived relationship, really.

Rating: 65

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