Rue Delawney fears her brutal stepfather will force her into prostitution. Salvation comes when Hawke Masters waters his horse near their shack.
First, Sly Burford tries to sell Rue to him, then Rue's grandfather appears with a shotgun, forcing them to wed. Hawke finds himself saddled with a skinny, unkempt girl as his wife.
Drawn to Hawke, yet fearful of being used, Rue refuses to give into her yearnings. Hawke denies his attraction until he realizes that Rue is sweet, hardworking and kind. Rue begins to lose her fears and gives Hawke her love.
Their peace is shattered when Sly and Hawke's ex-mistress shoot Hawke and sell Rue to the Indians. It takes a miracle or two to bring Hawke and his beloved Rue back together again.
HAWKE'S PRIDE is a realistic, earthy picture of how unjust and harsh life could be in the West. Ms. Hess does not sugarcoat reality. Her characters are strong, tough yet tender people who survive one hardship after another. Bravo for bringing them to life. SENSUAL (Jan., 448 pp., $4.50)