Saturday, May 7, 2016

Ellen O'Connell - Dancing on Coals

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?

Comment: I got this book some time ago, probably more than 18 months ago.. but, like so many others, it has been waiting and waiting in the pile. This month I added it to my reading list of May.

In this story we meet Katherine Grant, a woman from a rich family who went to look for adventure and saw herself in a robbery from which she runs away from only to be "rescued" by Indians. Although her position isn't the best possible, Katherine is a strong, confident woman and tries her best to survive and possibly run away. But even the best plans go wrong and after an attack, Katherine sees herself at mercy of Gaetan, an Indian that has reasons to hate all white people.
Gaetan only wants to fulfill his promise and get the white woman out of his sight but things aren't that easy to do and he needs to help her. After some ricks taken and solutions found, he brings her to the camp where his mates and their families are. Somehow he starts to understand and respect Katherine and things change between them, but will it last if she's not one of them?

I liked this book and the concept behind it. There's something special about the differences between whites and Indians in an historical context that appeal to me. It is sad so many books withing this cultural theme are so badly done or focused on silly situations. This story is solid and well structured and, since it's my first attempt reading something by this author, I feel quite pleased by how this worked out.

However, this isn't a fully perfect book to me. Some readers say Gaetan and Katherine's relationship took too long to develop but I don't mind that, they needed time to understand and grow to like each other.
What bothered me more was the dynamics in the relationship between Katherine and everyone else... I understand the fact she's so confident and strong are good characteristics to have in such dire situations as the ones she is involved in, but I felt she was too savvy and I'd have liked to see a heroine developing her self esteem and trust in herself throughout the novel. Katherine never needed it because she was already like that. Her challenges were difficult yes and I feel glad she achieved happiness...but I expected a heroine more shy or timid... 

The end of the book also annoyed me a bit. Well, not the book itself, more the epilogue. I mean, it was pleasant, positive, happy but so far apart from the novel and all the things Gaetan and Katherine struggled for... I envisioned something different, although I accept why things had that progress.

The details about Indians, their values and culture were interesting, but I felt not enough development happened in those areas. Too much running from enemies and doing other plans got air time out of what I think would have been better time dedicated to Indians and establishing a better notion of their communities and a life in one, I guess..

The romance was the best part of the book. It took time, it had a slow pace but when they finally admitted anything or did something to acknowledge their attraction I think any reader was ready to see it happen and that added even more strength to their connection. I liked how both learned something and became better people by having someone different but so alike to be in love with. After all, not all things each one considered bad was totally so and vice-versa. I liked how such a mutual learning process it was for them to be with the other and how important learning to trust the other was for both. 
Gaetan is a mysterious person, but I understand why he acted like that. His character was economical in words and actions but when he meant something, it was easy to see and justify.
Katherine is strong in almost everything but when she falls for Gaetan, it makes her have different perspectives in things... together they are a wonderful couple, indeed.

All in all, this is a great read but for me it lacked something to make it perfect. There's a sense of magic in the book, in terms of how one might feel while reading it, but somehow not all is as special as it could. I had a good time reading but some parts weren't as addictive to read and that slowed me down a bit.
But I still think it's a good book and I look for to read more by the author, which it seems will be better because other books have better average ratings.
Grade: 7/10

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