I find few enough romances set in colonial times or during the Revolution, so finding a book not only taking place during the Revolutionary War, but also set against the western frontier battles completely surprised me. As I flipped through Jamie Carie’s Wind Dancer and saw that it dealt with the campaigns of George Rogers Clark and the Long Knives in what is now Indiana, I knew I had to give it a try. Though the book has its flaws (and a middle section that is truly not for the faint of heart – or stomach), it has its interesting points as well.
The daughter of a free-spirited French trader, Isabelle Renoir herself has a wild streak. Living with her mother and brother in Vincennes, Isabelle dresses to suit herself and excels at hunting and tracking far more than at any of the traditional feminine pursuits. The manner in which these traits show themselves to the reader brings Isabelle dangerously close to curl-tossing feistiness at times, but Isabelle possesses a fierce edge that keeps her just outside this dangerous Romanceland territory.
Father Francis, Isabelle’s parish priest, requests that Isabelle and her brother undertake an errand for him. Believing that the territory is safe for the moment and that Isabelle needs an outlet for her restlessness, he suggests that she travel to Kaskaskia to retrieve a shipment of books. On this journey, they meet Samuel Holt. Part of George Rogers Clark’s army, he has been sent to scout out the area around Kaskaskia before Clark moves in. Samuel stumbles across Isabelle’s party and joins them. When Isabelle’s guide deserts them, Samuel takes the lead, and the three pretend to be husband, wife, and brother-in-law in order to protect Isabelle’s reputation.
Much adventure ensues and parts of the middle portion of this novel resemble frontier captive narratives. Though some of the emotional and spiritual parts of this journey feel very powerful, the author does not spare readers any violence or coarse details of the journey. As a result, some parts of Isabelle and Samuel’s story can be very harrowing.
In addition, this story does not always cast native Americans in the most politically correct light, with some behaving kindly and others quite brutally, and some readers may find this upsetting. While that on its own would not be enough to make me uncomfortable, Isabelle’s rather historically accurate ideas about them did rattle me even as I recognized that her beliefs would have been quite mainstream in her day.
Even though I didn’t always delight in the historical depictions in this story, I still found the background very interesting. The author does capture well the unusual mixture of personalities living in the area during this time period, and she also gives readers a glimpse into how the frontier war with its untrained armies, changing alliances and guerrilla warfare differed sharply from the war in the East.
Unfortunately, the romance does not fare nearly so well. At times, one can feel the emotional connection between Samuel and Isabelle. However, they spend far too much time bickering, and the last section of the book marks a somewhat abrupt shift from the rest of the plot. throwing off the mood of the story and making it hard for the reader to entirely believe in the romance. Add to this a plethora of prooreading errors (“flare” instead of “flair”, etc..), and the book has entirely too many blah moments.
Though it features an interesting setting, Wind Dancer ultimately does not have enough depth of feeling to garner my recommendation. If you pick up this book desiring an adventure story rather than a romance, the glossed-over love story, that may not detract from the book so much. However, I needed a little more than what I got from this story.