Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-80309-7
Contemporary Romance, 2000 (Reissue)
On the surface, Kathleen Eagle’s What the Heart Knows seems nothing out of ordinary. Lovers-at-teenage-years-then-separated couple reuniting amidst shady going-ons in the casino and around the Bad River Sioux Reservation. Throw in the secret baby plot and I am ready to frown. Indeed, I did frown during the first few chapters. Way too predictable, I thought. The hero Reese Blue Sky (what a wonderful name!) was nice, too nice. I like my man with teeth. Helen Ketterling seemed nothing out of ordinary. Reese’s father seemed like the usual David Carradine-Kung-fu-master spout of good advice and philosophy.
Yet along the way Ms Eagle managed to make me care for these two. Reese became more fleshed out, even dangerously sexy. Helen was more difficult for my emotions to get involved with, but eventually I warmed towards her. These two people really belonged together, that I have no doubt. The secondary characters were wonderful too, such as the sweet Aunt Lil.
But what made the story really special was the way Ms Eagle weaved in the many social difficulties the people in the reservation face. This story focused on the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act and the Indian Child Protection Act, which I had no knowledge about until now. It was painful as well as eye-opening to read about the problems the Sioux face, and ultimately, the characters’ happy ending seemed even more sweeter for it. Miss Eagle’s message was simple: family was the strongest anchor one could have in face of the hurdles life throws. She wrote with such tenderness, such sincerity, that I was moved to tears at some parts of this book. That, I’m sure, is reason enough to look up Ms Eagle’s backlist.