Dance on the Wind
I hardly know what to say. In reading Dance On The Wind I was bewildered throughout by the amateurish nature of the writing, the one-dimensional characters, and the literally hundreds of clichés that passed for dialogue. It was almost as though somebody had taken all the overused phrases from every romance ever written, put them into a blender, then dumped them out onto a page. The characters are generic with nothing creative to make them unique in any way. Add to this the fact that they accomplish their goals only through amazing and unrealistic coincidences, and you have a comic book without the pictures (no flames here from fans of graphic novels, please).
The setting is Independence, Missouri. Five-year-old Brandy (no last name) is abandoned on the doorstep of a priest, Father Brown. All Brandy can remember is that she witnessed her father’s murder. The story skips ahead to June of 1864. Father Brown dies, leaving Brandy homeless and penniless. The parish is to be closed. What to do?
Brandy has been educated by Father Brown to become a teacher. But Brandy does not attempt to find a teaching position to support herself and the five other orphans Father Brown had been caring for. Her reasoning? Independence already has a teacher. The job is taken. This is 1864 Independence, Missouri we’re talking here. The height of the Civil War, the height of the Westward Movement. Independence is a thriving community. One teacher?
Brandy goes to the store and sees posted on the bulletin board an ad for a Mail Order Bride. Ah. The answer to her problems. She writes to Sam Owens, then prepares the children to move West (knowing in her heart she will be the chosen one). Sam writes back (from Ft. Laramie, Wyoming), offers her marriage, and wires the bank enough funds for her to pay all her debts and purchase a wagon. Hurry up, Brandy, the wagon train leaves next week.
Although it takes three months to build a prairie schooner, Brandy acquires one that afternoon. Now, if she could only get a man to drive her. Enter Thunder. Rolling Thunder is the wagon train’s scout. Half Cheyenne, he is on his way from Boston to Ft. Laramie and home to his people. Thunder has a horse. The horse’s name is (are you ready?) Lightning. Thunder speaks like a dime-store Indian one minute and a Harvard lawyer the next. Surprise! Thunder is a lawyer.
Yes, in an amazing example of accelerated education, Thunder goes from half-naked savage to lawyer (no comment) in just four short years! Thunder was born and raised in an Indian village. But at the age of 20, his white mother sent him to Boston to “learn the ways of the whites.” He shows up in Boston, in buckskins, with his long black hair (how he got from Wyoming to Boston we are never told), and tells his grandparents their daughter is still alive. Helen’s alive? We thought she was dead all these years! Did she send a note? Did she come with you? No. But at the age of twenty, with no education at all to that point, Thunder (now known as Thomas Bradley) enters law school. I am not kidding.
The war breaks out and Thunder joins the Union Army. He is wounded. Enough with this stupid fighting, says Thunder. He deserts! He goes to Independence (a town occupied at this point by the Union Army, but nobody notices the half-breed deserter in the faded Union Army pants). He gets into a fight and kills a man he could have simply wounded. Later, he pulls out a cigarette. Smoking gun, smoking man. Hey, all this, and he’s a lawyer, too? Be still my heart.
He meets Brandy and she gets him to be her personal guide (long story) for the trek to Wyoming. They are attracted to each other, but she’s engaged to Sam Owens way out West and Thunder’s a loser half-breed. That doesn’t keep these two from getting naked and having sex the very first (and I mean the very first) chance they get. So much for tasteful restraint. Thunder is 6’2″ and Brandy is 4’8″. The logistics on this alone were astounding.
Thunder and Brandy are like two third graders talking to each other (why authors think that the lack of contractions adds maturity, I’ll never know). Here, let me pick a passage at random:
Suddenly the water rippled behind Brandy. She tried to straighten, but firm arms snaked around her waist, hauling her back, cutting off her air. She gasped because she was too frightened to scream. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“I want to know why you are out here away from the wagons?” Thunder’s angry voice was next to her ear. “Do you not realize how dangerous it is to be by yourself?”
She nodded. “But you’re here.”
“That is different. I can take care of myself.”
“Well, I can take care of myself, too,” she snapped back.
“Can you?” His voice held an ominous tone.
And the bad guys are just as simple. “Either draw on me fair, or I’ll put a bullet in yuh now!” As they near Ft. Laramie, Thunder tells Brandy how his parents met. His mother was captured by the Cheyenne and dragged into camp (what she was doing in Wyoming by herself, we are never told). As she stands there wondering whether she is going to be tortured and raped, Thunder says of this: “My mother received her name when she was captured and they brought her to camp. My mother is a white woman. She told me when she arrived at camp, my father walked over and looked at her then declared, ‘I want this Little Woman.'” To this Brandy replies: “That is so sweet.”
Brandy and Thunder are two of the least imaginative, most cartoonish characters I have ever read. Every word out of their mouths is a cut-and-paste from a thousand other romances. Brandy is astonishingly brainless and how she gets as far as she does is pure luck. Why, if the puppy hadn’t distracted the kid who didn’t put on the break, then the wagon wouldn’t have rolled backwards and hit the thing that caused the other thing to fall and break revealing . . . But wait. I don’t want to spoil it for you. As big as the West was, it’s a small world and you never can tell who you’re going to run into out there. The ultimate discovery of Brandy’s true identity must rank as one of the biggest coincidences in the history of the West.
Honestly, I wish I had liked this book. It is amazing, but for all the wrong reasons.