by Karen Kay, historical (1999)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80339-9
Let's start with Kathleen Eagle's book. On the surface the story of What The Heart Knows seems nothing out of ordinary. Lovers-at-teenage-years-then-separated couple reuniting amidst shady going-ons in the casino and around the Bad River Sioux Reservation. Throw in the secret baby plot and I am ready to frown. Indeed, I did frown during the first few chapters. Way too predictable, I thought. The hero Reese Blue Sky (what a wonderful name!) was nice, too nice. I like my man with teeth. Helen Ketterling seemed nothing out of ordinary. Reese's father seemed like the usual David Carradine-Kung-fu-master spout of good advice and philosophy.
Yet along the way Ms Eagle managed to make me care for these two. Reese became more fleshed out, even dangerously sexy. Helen was more difficult for my emotions to get involved with, but eventually I warmed towards her. These two people really belonged together, that I have no doubt. The secondary characters were wonderful too, such as the sweet Aunt Lil.
But what made the story really special was the way Ms Eagle weaved in the many social difficulties the people in the reservation face. This story focused on the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act and the Indian Child Protection Act, which I had no knowledge about until now. It was painful as well as eye-opening to read about the problems the Sioux face, and ultimately, the characters' happy ending seemed even more sweeter for it. Miss Eagle's message was simple: family was the strongest anchor one could have in face of the hurdles life throws. She wrote with such tenderness, such sincerity, that I was moved to tears at some parts of this book. That, I'm sure, is reason enough to look up Ms Eagle's backlist.
Karen Kay's Night Thunder's Bride tells the story of Night Thunder, who had to marry Rebecca Cothern in order to save her from his tribesman. The story is nothing new really, to be honest. I didn't really warm up to these two characters; they never really sustained my interest. Probably because the story was very slow-paced, and there was no external conflict much to spice up things. The story was more of Rebecca's journey to self-discovery and understanding of the life and cultures of the Blackfoot tribe.
Yet the greatest impression I received from reading these two books was the strong sense of love and care for these people from the authors practically emanating out of every page. From Kathleen Eagle's earnest yet tender prose and the sincere afterword to Karen Kay's painstakingly detailed Blackfoot way of life, her wonderful glossaries, notes to the reader, and additional quotations from some Blackfoot figures, I was struck by how much effort these authors must have spent on their work, communicating with their American-Indian friends, reading up and analyzing reservation laws, writing about and definitely feeling what these people feel.
If their purpose is to inform as well as to entertain, I must say they have succeeded wonderfully with me. Thank you, Ms Eagle and Ms Kay, for the pleasure. It has been a wonderful, emotional, and ultimately rewarding ride on the rollercoaster of your imagination.
Rating: 84 for What The Heart Knows and 52 for Night Thunder's Bride
What The Heart Knows at Amazon.com
What The Heart Knows at Amazon UK
Night Thunder's Bride at Amazon.com
Night Thunder's Bride at Amazon UK
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