The Indian romance sub-genre of romance fiction has its fans. I am not generally among them because, when it comes to Indian romances, I have great difficulty in doing something that is normally quite easy for me – suspending my disbelief.
I have been a long time fan of science fiction and grew up devouring comic books, so I have no trouble at all accepting faster-than-light travel, alien species, mutants with super powers and sweet-smelling historical romance heroines with soft smooth legs before the ages of indoor plumbing and safety razors. But in Shawnee Bride, I am supposed to accept a heroine who is an adult, and who has been raised in relative comfort yet chooses to turn her back on her family, her heritage, her entire world view, who has to learn a totally different language (and Indian languages are extremely complex), adapt to a very different way of life and – in short – change her entire self. If she had been adopted into the tribe as a young girl, yes I would believe it, but as an adult? No, I simply can’t buy it.
That said, Shawnee Bride is not at all a bad book. In fact, it is one of the better Indian romances I have read. Clarissa Rogers is the heroine. She is at an Army post with her aunt when she and one of her escorts are set on by two mountain men who knock out her escort and kidnap her. They plan to rape her and then make her serve as their drudge, but swift water capsizes their canoe and Clarissa is rescued by Wolf Heart.
Wolf Heart is a Shawnee. His blue eyes give away his heritage. He was born Seth Johnson and was taken at age 11 by the Shawnee when his father was killed by a bear. He passed the Shawnee test of bravery (running the gauntlet) and is a full member of the tribe. He still remembers English and his old name, but he thinks Shawnee, acts Shawnee is Shawnee.
Wolf Heart takes Clarissa to his people. They make her run the gauntlet and she passes the test. Clarissa is taken in by an old woman, Swan Feather, who teaches her Shawnee ways and becomes Clarissa’s good friend and almost a second mother. Clarissa and Wolf Heart become closer and closer as Clarissa learns Shawnee language and ways, but eventually she has to choose one life or the other.
As a character, Clarissa is likable enough. She starts out a bit TSTL (too stupid to live) – at one point, she jumps out of a canoe to get away from Wolf Heart even though she does not know how to swim. As the book goes on, however, she becomes more brave and self-sufficient, although I thought her adaptation to Shawnee ways came about much too easily, given her age and upbringing.
Wolf Heart was also a likable enough character. He does not speak in broken sentences, nor does he refer to himself in the third person. He is brave and honorable and very firm in the way of life that he has chosen. There are no cliched characters, no evil Indian villains out to abduct the white woman, and there is no jealous Indian maiden out to kill the white woman who took away her man. Instead, the Shawnee are depicted in a matter-of-fact way. They are not romanticized, nor demonized.
I did not regret reading Shawnee Bride, but it did not win me over to the Indian romance. If you like the Indian romance sub-genre you will probably enjoy this book very much, it is much better than any full length Indian romance I have read. But as for me, I’ll still keep looking.
|Review Date:||January 22, 2000|