Tomahawks flash and war cries resound, but Bittner’s latest historical is predictable and dull.
Not that she hasn’t done the research—just about every Indian tribe east of the mighty Mississippi circa 1750 gets involved. And they are a bloodthirsty lot, given to munching the still-beating hearts of their vanquished foes. Sixteen-year-old Jessica Matthews has heard of such horrors, and her father has warned her to stay close to the family cabin in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Out for a walk one winter’s day, Jess is attacked by a small band, then rescued by handsome Noah Wilde, a hunter who risks his life to save hers and with whom she falls in love, of course. Turns out he’s a spy for the English, who are fighting the French and Indians (his wife was murdered by a renegade tribe). He promises to return to help the family move back to Albany, New York, where he will marry Jessica in a month’s time. But in his absence another band of Indians slaughter Jess’s father and brother, burn her mother and a friend alive, kidnap her baby brother Billy and take Jess captive. The Indian women are not unkind to her, but she recoils at having her ears pierced and face painted—or sleeping with the young buck who seems to be intent on having her. When Noah rescues her again, after a bloody victory, the two travel through the frontier in a fruitless search for Jess’s little brother. Noah is relieved to find that sweet Jess is still a virgin, whereupon he claims her his own forever. Various historical figures are introduced in you-are-there style, including a wicked French priest who corrupts and exploits the gullible Indians; and the 20-year-old George Washington, as noble, gallant, and stiff as a formal portrait in oils.
Far-from-compelling in a romantic-historical series about the settling of America, with each installment moving west into a new place and time.