|Kim Antieau: Coyote Cowgirl|
Forge (Hardcover), ISBN 0-765-30267-5
The family of Jeanne Les Flambeaux enjoys renown as top chefs in the Southwest. Jeanne, however, can't even boil water. All her life, her family shelters her, expecting little from her in the way of achievements.
The family's prize possessions, a crystal skull and a ruby-encrusted scepter that join together, come out only once a year, during Day of the Dead celebrations. This year, after a carnal romp with her adopted cousin Johnny, Jeanne wakes up the following morning to find the scepter gone. Now Jeanne must hunt Johnny and the scepter down to prevent her family from finding out her screw up. But she finds company on her quest. The crystal skull, Crane, can talk -- to her, at any rate.
She tracks Johnny to Las Vegas, then to a spa in the desert near Sin City, only to find out that Johnny gave the scepter to someone to pay off a gambling debt. Jeanne gets badly scared by Miguel, a good Samaritan trying to return Jeanne's purse. When they sort it out, Jeanne learns that Miguel knows the man, Paul, to whom Johnny gave the scepter.
Jeanne, Miguel and Crane head back to Arizona. They finally find Paul and convince him to return the stolen property. But Jeanne agrees to use the family name and cook at Paul's restaurant for two weeks to bring in money to cover Johnny's debt. Crane assists Jeanne in cooking by sharing his secret recipes.
After a week of huge success, Paul gives the scepter to a woman named Inez, prompting Jeanne to take off once again in search of the heirloom. But Inez turns out to be someone Jeanne used to know very well -- and the keeper of a secret that could endanger Jeanne's entire family.
What begins as a rather funny attempt to hide a mistake turns into a quest for Jeanne to find her true self. As she follows the scepter, she learns truths about her past, her family and possibly her future.
Kim Antieau writes a terrific tale with a whole lot of action as well as poignantly true moments between family members. Crane's entertaining chatter keep things light-hearted, and the book wraps up with recipes for some of the dishes Jeanne makes during the course of the story. This makes for an all-around excellent read, full of great characterizations and fun action.
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