|Kelly Pounds: The Awakening Fire|
Press (Paperback), ISBN 1-929613-39-3
Given this background, I approached The Awakening Fire with some trepidation. Happily, the taste I developed as a child stayed with me, and The Awakening Fire filled all the requirements for a good western romance. Gunfights and drunken cowboys play a minimal role, leaving the story more time to develop the romance -- in this case, the forbidden love of an ex-convict Apache scout and a novice nun.
The Apache scout, Ladino, fresh from prison, seeks Nigel Smeet in Santa Fe. Smeet slaughtered Ladino's family and tribe, then framed the scout for their murders. The plan works -- until Smeet pays for two hired killers to ambush the Indian en-route to Santa Fe. The ambush results in the death of one of the killers and leaves Ladino in the sun to die.
The nun, Adela, only knows convent life. Her mother, unable to care for her child after her husband's death, left the toddler at the convent. Raised by nuns, Adela feels obligated to follow their example and become a novice, but doubts about her vocation constantly torment her.
While soliciting funds for the church, Adela finds Ladino dying from his wounds and exposure. Despite the fears of the two nuns and coachman accompanying her, Adela insists on taking Ladino to the convent hospital. The violence Ladino exhibits in his fever does little to endear him to the already prejudiced white community in and about the convent. In spite of this, Adela's passion for the half-breed Apache wars with her determination to become a nun.
Even as she tries to fight her feelings for Ladino, Adela receives news that her mother, now married to a wealthy man and with a newborn baby, plans to visit. Adela's mother always regretted her decision to abandon Adela and hopes to make up for the lost years.
Unfortunately Nigel Smeet harbors other plans. During a bungled raid, Adela's mother and stepfather die in an attempt to kidnap their baby. Left with only a ransom note for the baby and two graves for her new-found parents, Adela must cope not only with her grief but with local authorities unwilling to look further than the nearest Indian as scapegoat for the raid. Doing the unthinkable, Adela ignores her Mother Superior's orders and joins Ladino on his quest for vengeance.
The Awakening Fire draws the reader right into frontier life. I can't comment on the historical accuracy, since I possess only a limited knowledge of the place and era. But the feel of the narrative rang true. Kelly Pounds gives the impression that she deeply researched her subject. Her story also impressed me -- quite a compliment for a western romance from a jaded old hack like me.
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