Chieftain
by Nan Ryan, historical (2004)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 0-7783-2013-8


I don't understand why so many romance authors, when it comes to writing Native American romances, always end up delivering the same old political-correctness-gone-awry mess. The overdemonization of White people, the reduction of Native Americans into one-dimensional child-like Walt Disney cartoon characters, the mandatory Jealous Other Woman, and the hero's half-breed status. I especially don't understand this subgenre's obsession with halfbreed heroes. They must be the subgenre's equivalent of the Regency historical subgenre's rakes or something, because we all know that Native Americans are Pure and Saintly people that don't have sex because Disney's Pocahontas tells us so. Half-breed heroes can boink though, because they have the White people gene that allows them to be Tortured about their Evil Other Side and hence have lots of sex to make them feel better. Or something, I don't know.

There is very little to say about Chieftain because it is a standard textbook example of a typical Native American romance that hasn't made any significant evolution in plot since the romance genre's bodice-ripper days, plot-wise. In fact, one can argue that with the story's stronger emphasis on skanky elements like hero-and-ho sex and psychotic rantings of unbelievably monstrous White characters, this book probably fits the label of a trashy low-brow story better than the label of a romance novel.

There's the standard Selfless White Heroine Who Cares About The Native American Children, the unfortunately named Maggie Bankhead. Maggie is a schoolteacher in a Comanche reservation. Also in Fort Still is the halfbreed Shanaco who Resents Everything and Just Want To Be Left Alone With Skanky Women. These two don't hit off right away as the author wants to show us Shanaco's prowess with skanks first before hitting me in the head with how Sex With A Pure Woman Is Better. Or something. Personally I find the skanky scenes much more, shall we say, savage and sensual than the annoying "Love Me Slowly, I'm A Delicate Virtuous Heroine Whose Uterus Must Be Handled Delicately If I'm To Give You 28 Children" scenes, but that's just me, I guess.

Things come to a head (no, not that kind of head) when the Evil Slut, still bristling over the hero's turning down her offer of more skanky sex, accuses Shanaco of rape. By then Maggie has already embarked on her Free The Native Americans sojourn and she is attracted to Shanaco, so oh no, how can this be, people? What can they do now? And by the way, always bet on a bedside healing sex in a Native American/Western story - more babies are made over these wounds in these stories than by any other circumstances.

Despite the overcooked hodge-podge of overblown familiar plot devices in this story, I have to confess though that there's something very amusing about the overdramatic and often purple prose. Most of the humor in this book is unintentional as the author's wry and tongue-in-cheek approach in her last soap-operatic romance novel Naughty Marietta is missing here. Chieftain is a throwback to the romance novels of the dark old days, where the villains are so unbelieavably nasty that they probably bite off every fingers of their midwives the moment they were born, where tintillation comes from skanky scenes, and conflicts that revolve mostly around how our heroine is purer than the hos and the psychos the hero consorts with keep piling up like some truly tragic highway accident.

Since Chieftain is one of those books that manage to be campy and unintentionally amusing as much as it is a really bad book by today's standards, readers looking for some trashy low-brow fun may want to take a look at this one. It will make some decent entertainment between episodes of that truly tragic soap opera that for some reason I can't stop watching, Passions, at least. Among the braindeads like Luis, Sheridan, Anto"Die, Freak, Die!"nio, Migayl, Charity, Grace, Ethan, Sam, TC - good heavens, that's like half the cast of the soap opera - Rachel and Shanaco fit right at home.

Rating: 67


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