by Karen Kay, historical (2003)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-82067-6
This latest Native American historical romance by Karen Kay doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be a lengthy and preachy (and hackneyed) affirmative action treatise, a look into some Native American dream thingie, or a romance novel reenaction where the author uses cardboard cutouts instead of Muppets.
Kali Wallace and Daddy Dearest approach the Blackfoot reservation in Montana to get some research and photos for Daddy's latest book on the Blackfoot tribe. Kali is the photographer that will do the photoshooting, but she has to overcome the Blackfoots' belief that the camera can take away one's soul. In between oohing and aahing at the Beautiful Blackfoot People and telling me How Could We Do Such A Thing To These Beautiful People, our heroine climbs a mountain to see a sunrise, falls asleep, and dreams of this handsome Native American hero that's supposed to be her true soulmate. Alas, when she meets Soaring Eagle, he's not fond of White people and he doesn't care that he and Kali have been married in some otherworld thingie - does he? Of course he does!
On one hand, Karen Kay tries to infuse some substantial details in her story. Unlike Cassie Edwards' Native American Bunny Porn novels, Soaring Eagle's Embrace has details about the culture and lifestyle that go deeper than stereotypical wallpaper depictions of tepees and loincloths. However, everything else about this book's plot - from the unrealistically progressive heroine to the one-dimensional stereotypes of Native Americans (wise shaman, et cetera) - is pretty much formula.
Another problem with this story is that the characters are flat and inconsistent as well. Both Kali and Soaring Eagle are dull stock characters: Kali is pretty much the wide-eyed Blackfoots' biggest fan and Soaring Eagle is unbelievably flat as a mish-mash of Native American hero stereotypes.
Still, the book will still be okay if the author hasn't shied away from creating real conflicts that may bring up "disturbing" issues like racism and prejudice. Karen Kay instead relies on stock White villains and silly misunderstandings to prolong the story. Inconsistencies are abound in this story, especially with Kali's constant opinions about Soaring Eagle that go ping-pong back and forth between good or bad without any rhyme or reason.
While more literate than Cassie Edwards' stories, unfortunately at the end of the day Soaring Eagle's Embrace is still lacking that special something that will allow it to spread it wings and fly.
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