Friday, June 26, 2020

Pamela Sanderson - Heartbeat Braves

There’s never a dull moment at the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center.
Rayanne Larson knows firsthand the struggles of native people. Working at Crooked Rock gives her the chance to do good work for Indians living in the city. She has high hopes for the Center’s progress until its new leader hands her special project over to his underachieving—and distractingly sexy—nephew.
Henry Grant’s life is going just fine. Though he knows rez life, he’s always been an urban Indian. He has no interest in the Indian Center job his uncle pushes on him. That is, until he meets Rayanne. She’s attractive and smart, and like no woman he has ever met.
Rayanne is determined to keep her distance but when the Center faces a crisis, the two of them are forced to work together and she can no longer ignore the sparks between them.

Comment: I got interested in this book last year, since it was in a list of titles featuring Native American characters and, apart from those old fashioned historical books, I had not read any recent book with the main characters being Native and much less written by a Native author who could give a realistic portrayal of the culture and the identity of these people in a contemporary setting.
I was really eager to read it, I saw there were a few books after this one so, promising new stories too, but in the end the content wasn't as appealing as I would have wanted it to be.

In this story we meet Rayanne, a very over achiever young woman who has done and still does, everything she possible can to make the Crooked Rock Indian Center a success. 
This being a non-profit organization means they rely on grants and support from a board of directors and the rules can be quite tricky to maneuver for everything to go smoothly.
Then, when she thinks she might be promoted, one of the directors shows up with his nephew Henry, a man who minutes after talking to Rayanne lets her know he isn't much interested in working there, despite his uncle's idea to get him a job.
That job turns out to be what Rayanne thought would be hers but she just goes ahead and even tries to help Henry in his first steps as project manager. The problem is that all the little things that need to be done always have some sort of issue and not eve the attraction Rayanne and Henry share seems to cool down the fact the Center might be in danger.

This is definitely a contemporary story, set in modern times because I have to say it couldn't be more realistic to have a story that focuses so much on the theme of how much red tape is necessary for an association to work, how much headache one needs to bear to wait for things to happen and how much worry goes along it. 
This is very realistic, very easily recognizable to anyone who might have worked in one/or known about how non profits work but despite the idea - an Indian Center for cultural and social activities - the analytical aspects of the process are not fun, are not sexy, are not fascinating to read about in a romance.

I'm not saying the idea is boring, no, in fact it's quite admirable, but to read about it isn't that fun after a while. Had this been light on this subject, even if focusing on complicated matters as it did, the romance could have balanced things out, but I don't think this happened.
First because the romance was below romantic and then because the way things developed felt more like a wake up call to those unaware people who just see things work but don't know how much work is put into it and that everyone should be more dedicated to that idea.

I just don't think teaching so much about a subject that might not be to everyone's appeal in a romance is the right way to go for these books can turn into...well, boring stories as a whole even if the subject is interesting Other authors have done this, spent too much time on the hows and other elements were left behind.

Therefore, the plot was not as much on the cultural aspects of Native Americans, although that is mentioned, and not on how the different tribes (or one) might feel represented nowadays, even though we have glimpses of that as well, but mostly on the workings of a non profit.
Even allowing this to be pertaining and finding some details that can be a novelty enough to make reading about it interesting, I still think the overall writing style was too stilted, too strict and the story lacked spontaneity, lacked the kind of flow that would have made it appealing.

I thought the romance could be a good counterpoint but, sadly, no.
Rayanne and Henry can be a good match in several aspects but their love story was not romantic because we only saw some parts of them. The characterization only went on to present their goals in life (or lack of them), their love for their loved ones and the work and that was it. I don't think we really have a good take on them as individuals. 
Besides, Rayanne feels so overworked and Henry so adrift that I can't see how they might balance one another. People are different, we all have different speeds, different ways of dealing with things, even different awareness of our own worth and that's fine but the way these elements were done in this book, I didn't feel like I was convinced to care enough for either protagonist.

All in all, this story ended up being constructed in a slight boring manner, with unappealing main characters and development and a very depressing tone throughout.
Yes, this can be realistic, this can be a real vision of what is going on now with some Native American's experiences but I expected more of a romance, more on the relationship and not as much a lesson on politics behind a non-profit.
Grade: 5/10

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