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On Hawk’s Wings, by Sue Truheo

Review by Marcia Darnell

Old West Romance – October 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

On Hawk’s Wings
by Sue Truheo
Published in 2006 by
ISBN: 1-4241-0662-1

CAN SOMEONE LEAVE her world behind and adopt an alien culture? In the Old West, some could, and did — and thrived.

Center author Paula Trujillo (she’ll be living in the Denver area by press time) has long been fascinated with the Lakota culture. Her interest made the Oglala tribe the center of her novel, On Hawk’s Wings, set in 1867 in South Dakota. (Her pseudonym is an amalgam of her middle name and a common misspelling of her surname.)

It’s a romance novel of the classic style, encompassing history, drama, danger, love, thwarted passion, villains, heroes, and acts of derring-do. It’s also somewhat unrealistic, but for the purpose of light entertainment, that may be beside the point.

The story opens with Rebecca, a teacher originally from Spain, who is the only survivor of a wagon train ambush. Lakota warrior White Hawk finds her and, in the grand tradition of romance novels, they fall in love immediately. Of course, there’s another white settler in the tribe who has taught everyone in the village to speak English, so there’s no struggle for Rebecca to communicate.

Rebecca likes White Hawk’s people and agrees to spend the winter with them, teaching the children the three Rs and doing women’s work in exchange for room and board and a chance to be with White Hawk. She adapts quickly, becoming a beloved member of the extended family.

Despite their red-hot mutual attraction, she and White Hawk can’t be married, as he is promised to the daughter of a neighboring chief. His tribe’s future depends on the merger, so he feels honor-bound to go through with it.

(Rebecca’s husband was killed in the raid, but they only had sex once, and she didn’t really like him anyway, so her moral dilemma is slight.)

Meanwhile, raiders threaten the tribe, and there are accidents, injuries, tragedies, and obstacles for the pair to overcome.

Trujillo said she did extensive research on the Lakota online and her husband, David, supported her literary aspirations by taking her on a research trek to the Black Hills of South Dakota. She weaves her family history into the novel, drawing on Spanish history and family names for her work. The novel is meant to be the first of a trilogy.

As with most self-published books, the novel is rife with the kinds of errors SpellCheck doesn’t catch. There are many misused homonyms (“portrait” for “portrayed” and “passed” for “past,” to name two) and poor punctuation, including misuse of commas and too! many! exclamation! points!

There are also many instances of historical inaccuracy, such as Rebecca’s religious tolerance (unlikely in a 19th-century Catholic); a scene involving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; and characters using phrases like “I still got it.”

However, the dangers Trujillo writes about are real. From dishonest and violent traders to injury and illness with only primitive first aid, life on the prairie was short, painful, and fraught with danger. Trujillo captures that ambiance well. She also does a good job of depicting life in the tribe — the clothes, chores, customs and beliefs that made up everyday living.

This being a romance novel, there are also two de rigueur sex scenes, replete with flowery language and euphemisms.

This book isn’t for those seeking education or enlightenment. It’s not a historical text, and it doesn’t ask deep philosophical questions. But for those seeking pure, mindless escape, On Hawk’s Wings will deliver, to a place where the men are strong, the women are beautiful, and everyone lives happily ever after.

On Hawk’s Wings is available from