Wolf Shadow's Promise
by Karen Kay, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80340-2

Wolf Shadow's Promise is a bit better than many of the somewhat didactic, apologetic historical romances featuring American Indians out there. Yet like many of its contemporaries, WSP doesn't dare to rock the PC-boat by creating heroes that may be anything less than sainted, right down to the We are the world! mantras these men all love to sprout to their nature-loving Caucasian girlfriends.

Fine. But when things get sticky, ie the perfect hero starts acting weird, well, since I can't say it's due to any flaw in the hero's character (the author throws right into my face these men can't be anything but perfect), the whole reading experience gets just as weird.

Anyway, let me dispense with the plot first. Moon Wolf tries to save his brother from a Bigot Teacher who trashes the boy silly when Wise and Innocent Tree-Hugger-To-Be Alys Clayton intercedes. Moon Wolf, besotted by such apathy demonstrated by this lil' girl, vows to marry her.

He may just get his wish fifteen years later. This time, Alys has grown into a beautiful, splendourous schoolteacher who dreams of heating up the tepee with her beloved Moon Wolf. Moon Wolf, now known as Wolf Shadow, also dreams of having little perfect babies with Alys, but he's also busy raiding contrabands of whiskey shipments that would destroy his people.

He gets injured, and Alys the Saintess nurses him back to health, where they both then pledge undying love. Okay, but here is where things get sticky. As these two start their crusade against Alcoholism in Noble Natives Caused by Greedy White Capitalist Scums, the hero starts displaying the see-saw tendency. One moment he and Alys are planning to have beautiful babies. Then he realizes that her people are evil and lashes out at her to get lost. Then he remembers their endless love and they boink. When morning comes, he wonders if she's better off with her people. Boink. Push her away. Reel her back. Push her over.

Has he been tipping some of the whiskey on the sly?

It is one thing to write about the horrors of alcoholism and the subjugation of the American Indians. But let's not forget that this too is a romance novel, and I'd love some decent characterization and emotion along with the preaching. Since Wolfie is unintentionally schizophrenic, Alys is boring, and their love is sealed from the get go, what's left is a very dull, awkwardly-executed story that does its theme no justice.

Rating: 48

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