Four Stars Recommended
Katherine Bellamy, the youthful heroine of Winds Across Texas (Secret Staircase Books, 2019) by Susan Yawn Tanner, knows danger, conflict, and adversity. What she doesn’t yet know is true, fulfilling sensual and emotional love. Yet, with her heart already hardened by the bitter circumstances of her life, such love might remain out of her reach.
In 1857, as the story opens, Katherine tries to ignore the curious and sometimes hostile looks cast her way while she walks through a small Texas town. The stares no longer make her cringe, but she holds an eighteen-month-old baby girl protectively in her arms as if to shield the child from the angry glares aimed at her.
The child, Shea, is part Native American child, fathered by Wolf Killer, a Comanche, and a white woman who was his wife. Everyone in town believes the small girl is Kathrine’s biological daughter, a fiction Katherine created to save Shea from soldiers who would have harmed her.
Katherine had been abducted by the Comanche of Broken Arrow, and lived with them, caring for Shea and her ailing mother. Though taken by force initially, after a time Katherine lived willingly with the Comanche until soldiers took her back again during a bloody massacre. During that fight, Katherine had rescued Shea from her dying mother’s arms, saving the child from certain death at the hands of the soldiers by claiming her as Katherine’s own.
Since being returned by the soldiers, Katherine has not felt any sense of peace, nor has she truly felt at home there, or anywhere for a long, long time. Though she is sheltered by her single aunt, Dee, on a ranch near town, Katherine is shunned by most. People who had befriended her as a child before the Comanche captured her have turned their backs on her since she returned home carrying a half-Comanche baby in her arms.
Despite the sense of loss that assails Katherine, she shows her strong spirit in the opening pages as she confronts the grimaces and contempt of town people, but refuses to act ashamed as she stands up for the child. Yet it is also clear that Katherine’s heart has heartened. As author Susan Tanner ably writes, “Katherine, herself, had learned to be as unforgiving and unyielding as those who condemned her.”
As Katherine leaves town to return to the ranch and Aunt Dee, a stranger follows her. “He was neither a good-looking man nor an ill-favored one, but he did look as if he knew the meaning of ruthlessness.” Once at the ranch, he introduces himself as Slade, and as being with the Texas Rangers in a manner of speaking. In short order, Slade reveals that Katherine’s brother, Ford, is holed up with Broken Arrow’s Comanche. Slade intends to bring Ford to justice, along with his renegade companions, who are alleged to be selling whiskey and guns to the Native Americans.
Katherine reacts with anger at Slade, and he in turn is cold toward her, regarding her as a “white squaw.” He insults her, and she rebuffs him upon orders he is to leave the ranch. Yet, despite their hostility, there is something sensual in their physical awareness of each other.
Slade, who is a man with secrets of his own, soon sets out on his mission to capture Ford and his renegade companions. But Katherine sets out to save her brother from Slade, entrusting Shea to the care of Aunt Dee. Katherine understands the danger to Ford does not come from the Comanche but from the Ranger who seeks him. She also considers staying with the Comanche once she finds them, knowing she will be accepted by them far more than in her Texas town. Katherine also thinks of returning Shea to her father, Wolf Killer, because the Comanche will love and honor the child, unlike the white citizens of Katherine’s small town.
Initially Katherine only means to follow Slade, who she regards as a vile, dangerous man, so that she can find her brother, rescue him, and be reunited with Wolf Killer. However, battling nature, she is forced to change her plans and confront Slade.
Hence, as both the love story and the dangers slowly build, readers can appreciate that Winds of Texas is a classic western action/adventure romance, and that’s a compliment. All the elements are present—the conflict, the heroine and hero, the dangers and adventures, the wild west setting, and side characters and side stories that round out the plot. Susan Tanner does a wonderful job in spinning the tale, and her language is rich with telling images and vivid descriptions. Tanner also captures the emotions of her characters in authentic, moving phrases and scenes. This is a jewel of a story, with the developing romance well done amidst the dangers confronting Katherine, Slade, and her brother. The child, Shea, will steal readers’ hearts in a hurry. Tanner even gives Katherine’s horse a distinct personality that adds to the story.
Winds Across Texas was initially published in 1994 by Leisure Paperbacks, but has been re-issued by Secret Staircase Books, an imprint of Columbine Publishing Group (March 15, 2019). It is available in e-book and in paperback.