BOOK REVIEW : 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?


review

I came across this title when I was looking for a romance with a slow-burn. This book came out at 2011 and I had no idea it existed. But this book provided just what I needed.

It’s set in the Wild west in the year 1888. The hero Gaetan is Native American and Katherine is a ‘White’.

They meet when Katherine is traveling alone in a stagecoach to New York, amidst all men. They get robbed and her companions murdered. Katherine, who’s spent all her childhood traveling the world and going on adventures with 5 brothers and father who owns a ship business, successfully defends herself. But not long after, a group of Apaches including Gaetan and his younger brother find her.

Initially traveling with the group, Katherine is well aware that the Apaches are the leser of the two evils, and uses that to her advantage by being acquiescent with them. Soon after, situations force Katherine and Gaetan to survive alone together. For Katherine, Gaetan is the only one she can depend on for survival; And for Gaetan, he has a promise to his brother to keep.

Katherine is a hard headed and strong heroine. But she knows when to bow down and take it. Gaetan is a hero unlike any. He hates ‘Whites’ who had killed his parents when he was just a kid and forced him to go to their school. This is a guy who refuses to speak English despite knowing the language. His life’s mission is to kill as many White as he can. But Katherine poses to be a problem he never foresaw, thanks to his brother.

I absolutely loved the romance. It was slow and took its time to build. I loved Katherine, and felt for her. First she is forced to travel with a man who hates her kind and won’t even spare any words for her. Then she is forced to live amidst people who distrust her. But it was Gaetan who owned this book. Here’s a character who speaks very little, but you learn to empathize with him. He is honorable but also cynical and distrusting.

The slow blooming attraction between them was amazing to witness. The enemy-to-lover twist is done so well that it’s believable and solid. I loved seeing the growth in their individual characters and their relation with each other. But what I loved most was Gaetan’s transition. He does not become a softie or change his mindset just overnight. And I loved how he didn’t have to start waxing poetry or romantic dialogue for Katherine or the readers to know what he felt. It was a very subtle and finely done.

I don’t know enough about the context of the history of suffering of the Native Americans to judge the accuracy of the story. I know that the ending was definitely on the imaginative side. But I also felt that the author portrays the Apaches with respect and invokes empathy for their plight. The book did make me reflect more on how unjust and unfair history has been to the Native Americans. So that’s another plus point for the story!


ratings

★★★★★