Avon, October 25, 2011, $7.99
Outlaw. Preacher. Night Hawk. He’s had many names, but he can’t escape the past.
Since Ian Vance’s beloved wife was murdered years ago, the hardened bounty hunter knows he’ll never feel love or tenderness again, so he’s made it his mission to ensure others get their justice. But when he’s charged with delivering a sharp-eyed beauty to the law, Ian can’t help but feel he may still have something left to lose.
Orphaned at twelve, Maggie Freeman has always found her way out of trouble. But now there’s a vigilante mob at her back who would like nothing more than to see her hang for a crime she didn’t commit. Maggie may have to accept help for the first time in her life . . . even if it’s from the one man standing between her and freedom.
As the past closes in, the sassy prisoner and toughened lawman may just find a passion between them that could bring blinding happiness . . . if they’ll let it.
According to Beverly Jenkins’s Author’s Note in the back of the book, the story of Preacher, aka Vance Bigelow aka Ian Vance, has been ten years in the making. Though I have yet to read the other books in which he makes a guest appearance (The Taming of Jessi Rose and Something Like Love), it’s easy to see the appeal of this half-African half-Scot ex-bank robber turned U.S. Marshal and bounty hunter (and the sexy model on the cover doesn’t hurt the imagination either *g*). Thankfully, Jenkins has paired him with a worthy heroine in Maggie Freeman, a resourceful and intelligent woman with an unfortunate habit of picking up trouble, and sparks literally fly between them on a warmly humorous and adventurous road romance across the heartland of America.
Besides the romance, Night Hawk’s strongest suit is its history. Jenkins weaves facts into the story, touching not just on the career of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams and the vibrant life in the midwest’s all-black towns, but also the plight of displaced Native Americans and the injustices against Chinese immigrants. Ian and Maggie’s journey draws them from Kansas all the way to Ian’s ranch in Wyoming. Racism and prejudice, as well as sexism in Maggie’s case, have touched them both quite strongly, but they both remain resilient in its face, and better yet, their emotional wounds derive from their personal life rather than external forces.
A quirky and amusing touch is Ian’s penchant for quoting Bible scriptures to men staring at the barrel of his gun. He rescues Maggie from a vigilante gang who want to avenge a death she accidentally caused:
Ian quoted, “’There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death’ Proverbs 16:25.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the men by the sheriff raise his gun. Ian whirled and fired. Horses reared, men cried out, and when the quiet resettled three of the five were on the ground writhing in pain from the bullets in their shoulders and arms.
The journey from Dowd to Kansas City isn’t any more restful than this, what with enemies from Maggie’s past tagging at their heels, and Ian’s inability to get this troublesome woman off his hands so he could return to his ranch in Wyoming and brood.
Thankfully, the best road romances force its warring protagonists into one another’s company for extended periods of time, and ironically, Maggie’s only escape from Ian lassos them more firmly together. The action never lets up, but no matter how quickly they move, neither can escape their past, and the culmination of both Ian and Maggie finally vanquishing their ghosts is both moving and heartwarming.
Evangeline Holland is a writer of historical romances, an amateur milliner, and a really great cook. When not writing or reading, you can find her blogging about the Edwardian era on her website, the aptly titled Edwardian Promenade.