Apache Johnny Whitehorse shared a passionate teen-age love with Leigh Foster. Leigh’s horrible and greedy racist father was a rich man who employed Johnny’s horrible and abusively alcoholic father to train his horses. When Leigh’s father found out that his little girl was having sex with an Indian, he told her to dump Johnny or he’d fire Johnny’s father. Although Leigh loved Johnny, she did as she was commanded, breaking his heart.
Fast forward twelve years. Johnny Whitehorse is now a multi-million dollar entertainer. He’s a model, a movie star, and the dark and sexy hunk who wowed the nation by displaying his bare butt on NYPD Blue. (You thought that was someone else, didn’t you? Nope, Johnny Whitehorse.) While some people hold him up as a role model, others deride him for having lost touch with the traditions of his people.
Leigh is a hard-working veterinarian, divorced, and doing her best to raise her son, Val, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. She lives more or less at the poverty level because her ex-husband provides no financial support. She has no health insurance and she spends every extra dime on medicines and equipment necessary for Val’s care.
Leigh lives in the ramshackle house where Johnny and his father used to live. Johnny lives in the mansion that used to belong to Leigh’s father. (Irony – A commonly used literary technique employing contrasts for rhetorical effect.) Leigh’s father is now a corrupt senator whose dirty dealings with the Apache tribe have made him the focus of Johnny’s well-publicized enmity. Johnny and Leigh are still in love, still want each other. Can they get past all the obstacles that lie between them – past hurts, his fame, her disabled child, his feud with her father, and the intricacies of the suspense subplot – to find happiness?
This book comes very close to working well. Sutcliffe is a good writer, and the sex scenes in this book are nicely steamy. And what a great hero Johnny is. He is so dark, sexy, rich, wounded, tough, vulnerable – you name it, he is it. I couldn’t get enough of him. And that’s part of the problem with this novel. Johnny is fabulous, but Leigh is terribly ordinary.
Don’t get me wrong, Leigh is nice. But she’s always so tired, she spends so much time worrying, she rarely sleeps, and she never eats. I mean, she never eats. I think I was supposed to admire Leigh for her struggle to raise her son alone, but I kept wondering – why hasn’t this woman talked to someone about Medicaid? I know for a fact that children suffering less severe disabilities than Val are eligible regardless of financial circumstances. So I was completely unimpressed by all her anguish about how she can’t afford a new wheelchair or that great new medicine for him. Maybe I was supposed to admire her pride for not taking money from the government. Whether accurate or not, it appeared as though the author didn’t do her research.
Worst of all is Leigh’s impenetrable and incomprehensible loyalty to her father, Senator Foster. You know throughout the book that there will be a final showdown between Johnny and the Senator. And you know that Leigh will side with her father, even though he is neglectful, selfish, chauvanistic – you get the point. Leigh may be nice, but I never could understand what Johnny saw in her. She never seemed deserving of his love, and that means that the romance really fell flat.
Every time I turned a page I kept fantasizing about what I would do if I could step into the book. I’d force-feed Leigh a chicken salad sandwich and hand her a brochure about the Federal Katie Beckett Medicare program. And then I’d head on over to Johnny Whitehorse’s place.
After all, I’m pretty nice, too.