by Gem Sivad, historical (2010)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-668-5
Breed True may seem like a macabre title for a Western romance, but it is actually a pretty accurate title for this story.
We are in the town of Eclipse, Texas, and the year is 1882. Frank Rossiter, a gambler and all-round nasty asshole, is dead. While nobody mourns his passing, his death leaves a significant impact on his widow Julie and the local "Indian savage" landowner Grady Hawks.
For Julie, she is a suspect in her husband's murder, and more importantly, she and her twin children could very well be in danger should her husband's murderer decide to clean up any loose ends. When she is pretty much thrown into Grady's clutches as his new wife in a scheme concocted between Grady and some prominent town folks, she can see the benefits of such an arrangement to her and her children. Being the wife of a wealthy landowner of prime land with access to water will give her some leverage, especially since he needs her as much as she needs him. She can get him to give her and her daughters financial security if she can fulfill the terms of their marriage.
For Grady, his Kiowa blood marks him as an "Indian savage" to most folks in that part of the world no matter how much he plays up to the role of the civilized landowner. Recently, the Eastern Land Company with the cooperation of the local bank is making a bold move to snatch his land, using his being a half-Kiowa as an excuse to seize his land from him. Grady decides that some eugenics will be useful in his fight to protect his property. Julie is white, and therefore, she will make the perfect mother for the son he intends to deed his land to - a son who looks lily-white, with red hair and fair skin that he will inherit from Julie, and is therefore removed far enough from Grady's Kiowa bloodline to enable that lad to inherit the land. Grady will of course manage the land until his son comes of age. He doesn't like this plan, but given the prejudices he faces for being a half-Indian in a time when the Native Americans are being driven off their lands into reservations, he doesn't think that he has any other choice.
Breed True is a romance story of two characters who face prejudice on a daily basis. For Julie, she will always be the wife of Frank Rossiter to many people. Never mind that they know how he beat her, some would always believe that she abetted her husband in his many schemes and that her morals are as black as her husband's. Both of them do not trust each other at first, but, of course, we all know what happens in a marriage of convenience.
What impresses me about this story is how Ms Sivad avoids inserting contemporary screes about prejudices and racial intolerance on a soapbox. The characters behave true to their time, and in the case of Grady, he has to play to the race game in order not to become buried by the Texas Indian Relocation Act. If you are expecting him and his Native American kinsmen to miraculously bring tolerance and harmony into Eclipse, you won't find that story here, I'm afraid. Ms Sivad allows her characters' actions, reactions, thoughts, and fears to send home the message without any blatant preaching in the process. I really like Ms Sivad's approach here.
And oh my, the love story is a joy to read. The romance simmers, building slowly as the characters slowly learn more about each other and begin to trust the other person as a result. Theirs is a love story that flow naturally, without being disrupted by sex scenes that take place prematurely or anything of that sort. Grady is gruff and aloof at first, but he's an honorable man at heart. Julie slowly becomes her own person as she is, for the first time since her marriage to Frank, allowed to breathe easier and feel a little safer than before. Both characters can be a bit slow to realize that they are in love, but they are smart and likable times who live and love well together.
Breed True is almost "old-fashioned" in how much it focuses on matters of the heart without resorting to fancy gimmicks like acrobatic sex scenes and werewolves. However, the characters are anything but one-dimensional stereotypes, and the premise is interesting too as it deals with a subject that many authors may feel uncomfortable to touch upon in their books. I really like this story.
Interestingly enough, I enjoyed the author's previous historical romance as much as Breed True. Do I have more of her books in that TBR pile in my drive? I have to go check, because I think I could have very well found a buried treasure of an author here.
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