Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81015-8
Contemporary Romance, 2002 (Reissue)
Kathleen Eagle’s You Never Can Tell has many sly digs that still drive home the injustices faced by Native Americans today. Yes, this is a very serious story in its heart, but the digs can be clever and I find them a hoot. Too bad this cleverness is rarely evident when it comes to the hero.
“What kinda net?” somebody behind the bar put in.
“Internet,” Jack said. “They use it to fish for tourists.”
“It’s legal,” Mario repeated with a grin. “No limits, no season.”
“Is it covered by treaty?”
“Some white guy invented it,” another voice reported, the conversation spreading like ripples from a pebble plunk.
“Then we’re safe. You’ve got a home page, Mario?”
However, the problem is, the hero Kole Kills Crow just doesn’t know when to stop playing the race card. The last thing I want is a hero who keeps reminding me and everybody that he’s a walking wounded Native American. I get it, trust me, so shut up!
Our heroine Heather Reardon, who gets a female version of a hard-on for everything Native American, wants to seek out wrongly imprisoned and badly subjugated Native American hero Kole Kills Crow (who wants y’all to remember that he’s a Native American) and report his story so that the world will read and weep over the pains and injustices meted out on our Native American hero. Kole, who is a Native American, however, doesn’t want to play, because did he tell you that he’s a Native American and he knows that he, being a Native American, doesn’t and shouldn’t mingle with a white woman? He, of course as a Native American who has been wrongly subjugated, has lost his career and daughter because he, a Native American, is a victim of American injustice. As a Native American, he thus has the right to play the race card and uses this free get out of jail card to bait and say things that will get him in trouble were he a white guy. But he’s not white, remember? He’s Native American.
Our Native American hero will remind our white heroine of her race when things get hot and heavy so that he can push her away. But she’s so hot! Our Native American hero can’t resist. What to do? What will our Native American hero, who will like to remind you that he’s a Native American pure-blooded stud, do? What will the Native American do?
Let me take this opportunity to make it clear that I am not offended, just annoyed by the sheer monotony of the hero using his race as an excuse for everything that’s wrong in his life. Life isn’t fair – hey, isn’t the most important thing here is to be strong and not let them get you down? Kole Kills Crow is so whiny and annoying and while he has a lot of things to whine about, what is he doing? Hiding in some backward county drinking and whining some more. What a loser.
I have no idea why Heather loves him. Her feelings are more akin to hero worship for all the wrong reasons, and as for him, his sleeping with her has a rather creepy screwing-her-because-she’s-white undercurrent. At the end of the day, I get this feeling that they are sleeping together because they want to push an agenda rather than to make love or be in love.
That’s the problem with this story. Kathleen Eagle doesn’t seem to know whether she wants to preach armchair, hackneyed ideology of minority rights or to push Native American awareness forth. The result is actually a rather irritating story that comes this close to being reversely racist. Pointing out injustices meted on a certain race is one thing, but having the hero from the oppressed race playing the race card to excuse his own behaviors make him not much better than the oppressors. In the end, he’s as much race-conscious – or even as racist – as the people he claims to be the villains in this story.