The Second Vow
Irishman Braden Flynn, a constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is in love with his best friend’s wife (Colin and Maggie from The First Time). Too honorable to say or do anything, Braden asks for a transfer to Fort Walsh on the U.S./Canadian border. There, he encounters Sitting Bull’s Sioux, on the run north in the aftermath of Little Big Horn.
Dancing Bird, Sitting Bull’s niece and interpreter, is among the refugees who are seeking sanctuary in Canada. When she sets eyes on the tall redheaded Irishman, Dancing Bird lifts her chin, makes eye contact, and lets him know she’s interested. He’s a little abashed – White women are never so bold – but he is entranced by the Sioux’s beauty and intelligence. Braden had lost his betrothed to illness years earlier, and he’s been alone ever since. He’s not sure he wants to love again, but Dancing Bird is very difficult to ignore.
With the U.S. Army hot on their heels, the Sioux enter Canada and are granted sanctuary as long as they obey the law, don’t cause trouble, don’t steal horses, and so forth. Braden and the other Mounties are instructed to ensure the Indians live up to their bargain. However, while Sitting Bull agrees to the terms, other factors are at work to push the tribe back across the border. The Blackfoot don’t want the Sioux there, the buffalo herds are dwindling, food is getting scarce. But should they return to America, Sitting Bull and his Sioux will be punished and sent to reservations.
Often thrown together by circumstances, Dancing Bird and Braden fall deeply in love. But because of the powder keg situation, he is denied permission to marry the Indian maiden. Dancing Bird will not be denied, however, and she and Braden find a way to solve this problem with the help of her sister, Walks Lightly.
The Second Vow is a well researched historical romance in its truest sense. Occasionally, more emphasis is put on the historical aspects of the story than the romance but that only adds to the richness and authenticity of Dancing Bird’s world. Braden and Dancing Bird’s love story is a gentle one. The story takes place more in the Sioux village than anywhere else and the courting and marriage customs are very interesting to watch. Indian life is no wallpaper here, but is an integral part of the tale. The author’s style is readable and the characters are real. No cookie-cutter cowboys and Indians, no stereotypes, no baloney.
The book is also an indictment of the Americans’ treatment of the Indians during this time period, and while not quite scathing, it makes it clear that the U.S. government and Army put forth little effort to deal fairly with its Native American population.
Braden and Dancing Bird a perfect match and their love story is sweet and tender. Secondary characters such as Walks Lightly and her husband, Standing Elk, Moving-Robe-Woman (Dancing Bird’s mother), and Big Dog, an honorable suitor, all have distinct personalities and story lines. All are written with compassion and intelligence. The relationship between Dancing Bird and her sister is very nice, and Constable Steven Gravel is ripe for a story of his won.
The ease with which Dancing Bird accepts love and sex as part of the natural world is very different from the European White perspective. Her view is innocent and logical; they love each other and should be together. Nothing else makes sense to her. When she and Braden make love for the first time, it is with complete abandon … a very different experience from the constricting and fearful consummations White women had been trained to be wary of all their lives.
My only real complaint with The Second Vow is that it left me with an uncertain feeling. What happens next? What is the fate of Sitting Bull and his starving band? I know the answer to that from personal knowledge, but the book ends before this question is answered for the reader. What happens to Braden and Dancing Bird? Where do they live? How do they live? These questions may be addressed in the final installment of this trilogy, The Third Daughter (due out in December, 2001), but each book in a series should stand alone and I don’t feel this book did.
Nevertheless, it is well written, and while it’s short on action and long on history, it does provide a realistic window into Indian beliefs and traditions, along with an appealing love story. I enjoyed it. I hope you do too.