|Flashback to the 1970’s with me…there is an Indian brave half dressed on the cover. There is a white woman who doesn’t really have a place and the two fall in love. Now, where do they live and how do they proceed in a world where tolerance is not yet a common factor? In fact, it is 1756 in a young American wilderness where the French and English are battling and the Indian tribes are taking sides. These were the books that were written for romance readers. But now return to our current time and we find a book written by longtime author Janelle Taylor. Yes, I really did check the publication date. Cherokee Storm will appeal to some, but not to all.
Shannon O’Shea first encountered Storm Dancer when she and he were just youngsters, playing together outside her father’s trading post. Life changed then as Shannon returned from the Smoky Mountains to the East with her mother. Shannon grew up in poverty and eventually ended up in an orphanage. Now, as an adult, she is returning to her father, who is living with an Indian woman named Oona. She again meets Storm Dancer when she is separated from her traveling party while tending to a cow during a thunderstorm. He shelters her during the night and returns her unharmed. Both remember their friendship and now they feel the lust of adults.
Eventually they meet again and make love. Their futures seem to be entwined, yet there are obstacles galore. There is one white man that claims Shannon for his wife and even though she turns him down and denies their relationship, Drake Clark wants her. Shannon discovered that Drake killed and scalped some Indian children in a battle and she cannot stomach him. Another obstacle is the sense of segregation that was prevalent in the times. White stayed with white and Indian stayed with Indian. Storm Dancer has been promised to a young maiden since birth and while he is not happy with the choice, there is pressure from his mother to fulfill his destiny and marry this woman.
This story has action with the fighting, the raiding and several atrocities. While Taylor writes this without sensationalism or graphic violence, there is enough to portray the horrors on both sides. There is a lot of soul searching, both from Shannon and Storm Dancer. Both have dreams and possibly visions. I found some of this to drag. At almost 400 pages, there were times when I was tempted to just put down the book and not pick it up again. That is never a good sign. On the other hand, it is clear that Taylor did her research and her depiction of the lives of both the whites and the Indian tribes in this time period was extensive.
But primarily I struggled with the premise. Shannon seemed too 20th century in her thinking and this didn’t seem real to the times. She never questioned living with the tribe or how this interracial relationship would impact the children. She was very naïve for all her bravado. Storm Dancer seemed too willing to buck his tribal needs, his mother’s wishes and what he had been told was his destiny. The fact that these two were separated and apart for much of the book did not help quell my concerns about their relationship.
The antagonists were many. There was Drake and his family saga, ending with a rather ridiculous ending involving mixed identities. Gall was an Indian half-breed who was actually playing both sides. His motivations were not clear and although he resented Storm Dancer, his actions seemed self-destructive rather than vengeful.
If you are a fan of early American history Indian wars, and tales of almost impossible loves, then you may enjoy this story more than I. For me, Cherokee Storm is a tale that seems to belong in a past decade.