cover image Maverick Heart

Maverick Heart

Joan Johnston. Dell Publishing Company, $7.99 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-440-21762-6

With her newest offering, veteran historical romance author Johnston (The Inheritance) tells two linked but separate love stories--one of Lady Verity Talbot, countess of Rushland, and the other of Lady Verity's illegitimate son, Rand. As a young woman, Verity was forced into marriage to the earl of Rushland to save the life of her lover, Miles. Twenty-two years later, the earl is dead and Verity has left England with Rand and his fiancee, Freddy, to take up residence on the Wyoming ranch the earl purchased before his death. Unbeknownst to Verity, the ranch actually belongs to Miles, who is planning a kind of revenge against Verity (forced marriage again) for rebuffing him all those years ago. Before the travelers reach their destination, they are nearly trampled in a buffalo stampede, then attacked by a band of Indians. Rand and Freddy are taken captive by Hawk, a Sioux warrior who intends to make Freddy his bride. If humdrum narrative isn't enough to turn readers off, the uninvolving plot surely will be. Worse are distracting analogies such as this one describing the sunrise: ``Dawn's pinkened fingertips steadily crawled their way over the windowsill.'' Reading this novel, one gets the feeling one is picking through a valise overstuffed with odds and ends. (Dec.)