Desert Rain is an “Indian Romance,” but it’s quite different from a run of the mill Indian Romance. For one thing, the author is Native American, for another, he is male. The hero and heroine of the book are both Indians and the romance takes a backseat to an exploration of the lives of the Apache during the time when Geronimo was fighting with the U.S. Cavalry. While it does have its problems, there’s a sense of some reality in this Indian Romance, more so than others I have read.
Desert Rain (who is sometimes called Flower) is a young Apache woman who has recently married a young Apache man, Arm Bow. Rain loves her kind and handsome husband, and when he is killed as he rescues a young boy who has fallen into a ravine, she is devastated with grief. Rain goes out into the wilderness where she thinks she can hear Arm Bow call her. But the wilderness is filled with beasts of the two legged variety.
Desert Rain is stalked by a couple of hunters and when one tries to assault her, he is killed by an arrow fired by an Indian man. The man is the legendary warrior Spirit-Who-Walks-Like-A-Man, who had disappeared several years ago. Spirit Walker is kind and caring toward Rain and even manages to slays a cougar with his bare hands when it attacks them. In the meantime, Rain is being tracked by her brothers and some of their friends. When they find her, she tells them that she has seen the legendary Spirit Walker. Before too long, they are captured by the U.S. Cavalry under the command of Captain James Jackson, a decent and honorable man. But Rain and the others are rescued by Spirit Walker, in a parlay with Captain Jackson.
Rain and Spirit Walker go on a vision quest together where they receive the revelation that their lives are to be entwined, as the hawk flies with the eagle (an image that is used again and again as the book progresses). They marry even though Spirit Walker feels himself too old for her at first, but the vision cannot be denied. Most of the rest of the book tells of the conflicts between the Apache, the U.S. Cavalry and the Mexicans as the Apaches attempt to keep up their traditional way of life. Desert Rain has a lot of history, maybe a bit history light, but I still found it very interesting.
Desert Rain is not really a romance per se; it is more a novel of historical fiction as most of the book is about the Apache, their culture, their history, and their conflict with the U.S. Government. The style is a bit flowery when Rain and Spirit Walker are together, particularly during the vision quest segment, but at least the love scenes are not filled with purple prose. The author shows how there were men of honor on both sides and men of treachery as well, and how sometimes they were caught in beauracratic snares. I closed the book feeling that I understood the Apache a little bit more than I had when I started it. While I’m stilling looking for that elusive DIK “Indian Romance,” this one comes closer than any others I have read, and if the author goes for straight historical fiction next time around, put me on the list to read it.