Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell
Why this one: Adoration for her previous books
Steam Level: Just about perfect
Blurb: After escaping robbers intent on murder, Katherine Grant says, "I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Before long I'll be dancing on the coals." The highwaymen were the frying pan; the handsome young Apache who saved her from them was the fire; and the coals? Gaetan.
Rage against the enemies of his people has consumed Gaetan from boyhood. The only use he ever found for any white was to test the sharpness of his knife. Forced by his brother to endure Katherine's company, Gaetan tries to deny what he sees - the white woman has a man's temper and a lion's courage. She has an Apache heart.
In spite of hate, distrust and fear, surviving in the rugged country of southern Arizona and northern Mexico forges a strange bond between Katherine and Gaetan. When the bond turns to love, can they admit it? Can they bear the consequences?
My Thoughts: One of my very best discoveries last year (or was it the year before? Hmmm – aging is a bitch) was Ellen O’Connell. I loved Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold and Sing My Name. I’ve read both 3 times now. She is a self-published author so she doesn’t come up when I check Fiction DB for upcoming releases, but thank goodness someone at AAR posted that she has a new book out now. The same day I read that, I visited my local coffee shop, since my Wi-Fi doesn’t work with my IPad at home and any e-book purchases have to be done somewhere else, which at the rate I’m buying them is for the best. I bought the book that day and started it last night.
I probably said it about EOS, EOG and Sing My Name, but wow this author awes me. She is self-published and more technical type readers may find errors, or others who read it may not be entirely happy that the story takes a while to get going, but once it does, my goodness does it pack an emotional wallop for an emotional type reader. And since I am, it did.
A bit of a note to begin with. This is an ‘Indian Romance.” Now this particular genre has gotten a bad rap in many ways because of some of the truly horrendous books written. Cassie Edwards comes immediately to mind. There are other authors who do a bad job in this job, very bad. There are also authors who write wonderful of cross cultural love stories. Of those authors, I think Kathleen Eagle and Roseanne Bittner are the best. Pamela Clare also does wonderful portrayals in her historical romances I think.
So I wasn’t quite sure where this book would fit it. I didn’t have many worries though as she had done such excellent writing previously. And I was RIGHT! This book is such another true winner. It’s everything I love in a romance.
I adored Katherine. She behaved just as a heroine should when faced with the kind of situation she was faced with. First her stage coach was robbed, then she taken hostage by an Apache raiding party, one of whom was particularly hostile to her. She’s justifiably scared but never acts stupid about it. She gives in when she needs to and stands up for herself when she can. She really is a wonderfully written character.
Gaetan, the hero is an equally richly written character. He hates whites with good reason. He and his younger brother were taken away from their people and raised in a missionary where they were looked down on and scorned. Although he does know both English and Spanish somewhat, he refuses to speak the language of the people he hates and for much of the first part of the book, until Katherine learns to speak Apache, there isn’t much verbal communication between them. But there is PLENTY of communication going on non-verbally wise. Despite the fact that Gaetan hates the white man, Katherine is different. He admires and respects her courage. And he is forced to follow up on a promise in regards to taking care of her.
This book is outstanding, outstanding, outstanding. The author doesn’t make a caricature of Gaetan, which often happens with less talented authors. He is a stoic kind of guy and stays in that character throughout the entire book. But although he keeps many of his feelings to himself, he expresses how he feels towards Katherine through his actions, even if they are misinterpreted at times.
At times this isn’t an easy book to read. It’s very realistic and true to the times. Something happens to one character in particular that almost had me in tears. But I highly recommend this book to all who are even the slightest bit curious about this often poorly written genre. At only $2.99 at Amazon or same price at Smash words, it’s a great opportunity.
Although most of me wants to give this a 5 out of 5 and in some ways I am, it gets a 4.99 only because the interaction between Katherine and Gaetan takes so long to get going, though I could understand why. It’s my own personal impatience waiting for their poignant love story to begin that got in the way. In fact, after having written up this review, I started reading it again even though it wasn't that long ago that I read it.
Grade: 4.99 out of 5