The Covenant
by Modean Moon
Electronic edition: Embiid, Waianae HI, 2000, $5
(Originally published by Harper Monogram, 1995)
ISBN: 1-58787-003-7
Review Copyright 2000 by Rich Horton

Most of my reading is Science Fiction, and a major concern in that field is availability of older books. That is to say, the diminishing backlist. Lots of fine books are published and for all practical purposes are uavailable after the few months they are displayed in bookstores, or the slightly longer time they may still be obtainable from the publisher. As far as I can tell, this problem is still worse in the Romance field. There, the backlist seems almost nonexistent.

A lot of folks have suggested that new technologies can solve this problem. Print on demand books are one potential solution, and electronic books are another. (Keeping in mind that the interests of authors, readers, and publishers often clash in these areas, and that if a solution which seems ideal to a reader means an author doesn't get paid, for instance, it's not a very fair solution.) One company has just appeared and is reprinting some fine recent SF and Romance books, quintessential "midlist" titles, in electronic format, suitable for reading on a computer screen. This is Embiid, a Hawaii based company, which maintains a website at www.embiid.net.

I recently obtained a copy of the proprietary Embiid reader (available free with the purchase of one book: or a sampler version is completely free), along with one Embiid book. This reader has two functions: it decrypts the Embiid .ebk file format (an anti-piracy move), and it provides some basic functionality to help read the book on screen. This functionality includes such things as easy font size changes, display size changes, bookmarking, cover illustration display, and reading progress monitor. I found it easy to use, and in general the reading experience was tolerable. I am still much fonder of reading books on paper, but this reader did make it convenient to read a novel on screen without eye strain or difficulty finding my place.

The book I read was The Covenant, by Modean Moon. This novel was published in 1995, and won the Romance Writers of America Rita award for best Paranormal Romance. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Besides the romance element, there is a contemporary suspense story, and a link with an historical story. The various strands of the story are well integrated, with the romance arising naturally as part of the story, rather than driving the story, and with the resolution of the book being more closely tied to the characters' solving their personal problems than to the culmination of their romance.

The plot involves Megan McIntyre Hudson, a recently widowed daughter of a U. S. Senator. She has returned to rural Pitchlyn County, Oklahoma, to occupy a house her husband had owned, and to come to terms with her reactions to his death and the death of his sister, and to her own mistreatment, in a South American country they had been visiting for political reasons. Her emotions are complex, because her marriage was mostly a sham, and because her father has betrayed her in his politically-motivated response to the atrocities she witnessed in South American, and because she is only now coming to terms with a lonely emotional life. Unbeknownst to her, her onetime brother-in-law, the estranged husband of her husband's now dead sister, lives in a neighboring house. This man, Jake Kenyon, is a former DEA agent, then local sheriff, who has considerable issues with the current law enforcement officials of Pitchlyn County.

One night Jake hears signs of a struggle at Megan's house, and bursts in to rescue her from an illegal search conducted by the thuggish local sheriff. Thus Jake and Megan, who don't know each other despite being almost in-laws, are thrown together. Soon they find themselves, against their will, forced to try to figure out why people seem to be prowling about their two properties, and why the local police seem to be unduly interested as well.

At the same time, Megan, perhaps as a result of her psychiatrist's urging her to record her thoughts, begins to seemingly "channel" a young woman who lived in Pitchlyn County in the 1870s. Lydia was a white woman in the then Choctaw Nation, in love with a half-Choctaw ex-Ranger named Sam Hooker. Sam has angered an outlaw gang who then kidnap Lydia and rape her serially for several days until Sam can rescue her. This horrifying event scars her permanently, essentially ruining her relationship with Sam, which is already harmed by her hypocritical father's refusal to countenance her marriage to an Indian. Over time, Megan learns more and more of Lydia's story, and the half-parellels between her story and Megan's own story illuminate the contemporary plotline without being a slavish repetition.

The novel works itself out with a solid and suspenseful resolution to the story of Jake and Megan, as they fall in love, and also figure out the mysterious doings on their property, which turn out to have connections to both Jake's past and Megan's past, and perhaps even to the story of Sam and Lydia. The latter story is nicely revealed as well, and is effectively emotionally wrenching. The backdrop of the Oklahoma landscape is also well-evoked. The characters are convincing, and the love story is believable. This is a good example of what a "romance novel" really should be, in my opinion: a good novel on its own that has a solid romance story as a significant thread, as opposed to a contrived romance that drives the plot willy nilly (which I've seen too often elsewhere). Definitely worthy of reprinting.