elf: Petalwing, singing (Petalwing Singing)
[personal profile] elf posting in [community profile] sps
I bought this a few weeks ago, and dragged my feet on reading it, because I knew that (1) I'd love it and (2) then I'd be done, and the author doesn't have any more books for me. (Have read them all. They're all wonderful.)

Description from Smashwords: After escaping murderous bandits, Katherine says, "I jumped from the frying pan to the fire. Soon I’ll be dancing on coals." The thieves were the frying pan. The young Apache who saved her was the fire. The coals? Gaetan. Filled with rage and hate, Gaetan is Katherine's one chance to stay alive. When the struggle to survive forges a bond that turns to love, can he admit it?

Katherine, the lead character, is an awesome kick-ass woman who, if she showed up in fanfic, would be lambasted for being a Mary Sue. She's headstrong. Talented. Open-minded, in the sense of "annoyed with being treated like an infant or a bit of valuable jewelry that should be adorning some man's arm, and willing to cooperate at least somewhat with anyone who avoids those attitudes." Stubborn and competent, and not looking for anyone to rescue her from anything--rare and delightful traits in a romance heroine. Even when she knows Gaetan is her only chance to survive, she doesn't expect him to help her willingly, nor does she try to persuade him. She just makes sure he doesn't manage to leave her behind.

Gaetan hates her, because she's white, and he hates all white people. But he's honor-bound not to kill her, and putting up with her leads him to a grudging respect and eventually trust, and of course, given the genre, eventually that grows into love. But it's a strong, comfortable working relationship long before anything romantic is involved--even when they despise each other, they can rely on each other.

The author researched Apache culture, language and history for the novel. I've no way of telling how accurate she managed to be (my knowledge of history can fill entire thimbles), but it reads as respectful and plausible, and the notes at the end explain some of her choices. She avoided using known names (other than passing references to famous people like Geronimo), and instead named characters for birds or animals. She posits a community made of members of several different tribes, banding together to hide from both American and Mexican armed forces who wish to kill or imprison them.

At one point, I laughed out loud (rare in a romance novel, even ones with a bit of humor). At several points, I was cheering for Katherine; a few times, for Gaetan--and I loved that he didn't just decide "well, this one is strong and honorable so maybe I'm wrong about white people in general;" he manages to maintain his very justifiable grudges while realizing that they don't apply to a few people.

I'd love for lots of people to buy Ellen O'Connell's books, so she can quit whatever she does for a day job and write full time.
Dancing on Coals, Kindle version; Nook book; Sony store; Kobo books. $3 everywhere. Samples at the places that allow them.
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