Night Hawk

Beverly Jenkins. Avon, $7.99 mass market (326p) ISBN 978-0-06-203264-5

Jenkins, famous for historical romances featuring black characters (Captured; Belle), stumbles with this tale set in the turbulent American South of 1889. When Ian Vance, a bounty hunter turned U.S. deputy marshal, sees Maggie Freeman on a Kansas train platform, he’s struck by her defiant manner. Maggie defended herself against sexual assault and is on her way to stand trial in Kansas City, but no Southern judge would allow a black woman who killed a white man to walk free. Ian falls in love with her fighting spirit and sense of humor, and Maggie is intrigued by his law degree, Scottish and African heritage, and years as an outlaw. As Ian and Maggie dodge the law and travel to his Wyoming ranch, she piles on heavy-handed, disruptive lessons in African-American history. The romance either rushes or drags, and while the protagonists are quirky and engaging, the delightful side characters repeatedly steal the show. (Nov.)