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REVIEW:  Lakota Legacy Anthology by Madeline Baker, Kathleen Eagle and Ruth Wind

REVIEW: Lakota Legacy Anthology by Madeline Baker, Kathleen Eagle and...

Originally published in 2003, this anthology has now been reissued by Harlequin. I’ve read all three authors before, though it’s been awhile for two of them, so I went into the anthology with a little bit of preconception – both good and bad – but I was hoping and willing to be wowed all around. For various reasons, this didn’t happen. Two of the stories aren’t bad but one hit most of my bad buttons.

Wolf Dreamer
by Madeline Baker

Pregnant and alone on the Colorado prairie, Rebecca Hathaway’s prayers were answered–by rugged Wolf Dreamer.Will her search for home and family lead them to a new life together?

Lakota-LegacyI read some of your books years ago and I can say your style hasn’t changed. We have a passive, helpless heroine who brings out the dominant hero’s possessive and protective streak. Plus there’s kind of a fated mate feel to story which got skeevy at times. Wolf Dreamer has watched Rebecca every day for 5 years? Then, even though he knows she wants to go back East, he takes her to his tribe anyway and basically tells her “this is the way it’s going to be because of my dream.” Rebecca is a rapist magnet with 3 different sets of eeeevil white men attempting it – and there are almost no other white men in the story besides the eeeevil ones – until the noble hero shoots them all. The delicate snowflake heroine runs off multiple times, almost always getting into trouble due to her magnet ability, until the last time Wolf Dreamer kills for her and tells her she’s a lot of trouble. He said a mouthful. I was hoping to avoid the almost obligatory “insanely jealous Indian maiden who covets the hero’s bod and will do nasty things to sweet heroine to get it” but, alas, no. The ending is just too perfect. Suddenly Rebecca’s in love? Ready to be a Lakota living a lifestyle so different from anything she’s ever known? I couldn’t buy any of it. The only thing that raises this to a D is the care with which Wolf Dreamer treats Rebecca after her initial miscarriage.

Cowboy Days and Indian Nights
by Kathleen Eagle

Meredith Woodward had emptied her nest. She didn’t need a scruffy rodeo cowboy moving into her home–or her world. But Ryder Red Hawk was a man prepared to face his past and discover his future–with her.

This has the smooth, easy writing style I’ve come to expect from your books. The characterization is almost effortless and within two pages I feel that I know these two people. I love that it’s an older couple romance, too. She’s a little shy about her figure. He’s got salt and pepper hair and knees that don’t take to kneeling too long anymore. They’re opposites attract – she’s a homebody and he’s a wanderer. She’s got a fancy kitchen and loves wine while he’s got a cast iron stomach for anything and prefers kicking back with a cold one. The growing attraction works well. The tip over into the physical is that of two people who’ve been around a bit know a bit more about attraction and are ready to go for it. The back scene views of Ryder at work at the rodeo are fascinating without being fetishizing. I can even accept the sudden HEA. But something about Meredith’s fascination with Ryder’s Indian heritage seems “off” and at times a little too intense. It’s no big deal to him but she brings it up again and again until even he seems puzzled by it. I realize that this was the way to carry through the story arc and it does point out the issue of Indian children being taken from tribes back in the day to be raised by white families but the heavy hand here stands out in comparison to how the rest of the issues were so nicely handled. C

Seven Days by Ruth Wind

Sunny Kendricks’s luck had run out. With no money, no car and no home, she was sure she’d hit rock bottom. But Michael Chasing Horse was prepared for life’s storms and ready to offer refuge…in his arms.

Michael’s a quiet, cowboy hero. Slightly older and a bit threadbare from the drought but still in love with the land and determined to stay. He’s doubtful of this pretty, young woman being able to take the challenges of eastern Colorado living but in her own way, Sunny is as strong as he is having endured the challenges of her young daughter’s medical issues. I can picture this land and these two people – so similar despite their apparent differences. Still the 7 days til “I’ll love you forever” seem too rushed in spite of the tornado and wildfires that serve to bring them closer and quickly reveal to the other their strengths and character. I could accept them deciding to develop a deeper relationship and the novella ending on a HFN note but for both of them to be survivors of past bad marriages and take the plunge that quickly didn’t work for me. This is a story I would love to have seen fleshed out into a longer novella or full length story. C

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

REVIEW: Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan

Dear Ms. Cullinan.

I adored this book. It’s utterly and completely over the top. It’s exuberant. It’s angry — no, it’s furious. It’s totally steeped in dirty nasty sex. It’s leaking angst all over the place. It’s political and powerful and brilliant. And I think most people will either love it or despise it with the fiery burning hate of 10,000 suns. I — obviously — adored it. But then I’m a Big-R Romantic as well as little-r romantic. Passion and angst and anger are what it’s all about.

Monroe Davis is 25 and a drifter. He ends up drifting to a 3000 acre ranch in Nebraska. He lives on property in a shitty little apartment, but he’s happy with his lot (except his kitchen sucks). One day he goes to Rapid City for a fuck and finds himself hitting on his boss, Travis. After they both get over their terror at seeing the other, they do indeed fuck, because they’re perfect for each other. They have hot dirty kinky sex and then Roe insists on going back to a strictly working relationship. Until four months later, when he gets a letter from his cousin trying to get him to see the light about his homosexuality, trying to bring him back to his family by telling him how wrong he is because of who he is. He’s pretty emotionally fucked up about it and Travis takes him to the rodeo to make him feel better. Of course, they end up fucking again, but Roe runs again at the hint of emotional connection and the possibility of a relationship. Lather, rinse, repeat with more intensity.

This book is about Roe’s inability to access his emotions. It’s told in Roe’s first person point of view, so the reader suffers right along with him as he tries to figure out how to label or understand any of what he’s feeling. And he does, eventually. He gets his head on right, with the help of Travis and Haley, the ranch manager’s daughter. But it takes a while. And his maturation and emotional discovery are like a slow blooming flower. So much potential and so beautiful in the unfolding, as well as in the final product. It’s a love story in that we watch Roe fall in love, recognizing it even when he is blind to it.

And despite it being a first person book, we can see Travis fall in love, too:

I felt fluttery and strange when he stroked my face. I shut my eyes, swimming in the feeling. It went on a long time, though, and when I opened my eyes again, he had the damnedest look on his face. You would have thought I had used the crop on him well past "no."

"If you need, now or ever, to go back home, I don't want to be in your way." His fingers fell on my lips. "But outside of that, I'd really rather you didn't leave." His thumb stroked my chin and he added, "Ever."

He looked like he was going to be sick now. I frowned at him, but that only made him  worse. "You okay, Travis?" I asked.

"I don't know," he whispered. "Are you going to run?"

I tried to prop up on my elbow to get a better look at him, because he made no fucking  sense at all, but he reached up and grabbed my arm so tight it hurt, and I figured it out. And yeah,  for a second, I panicked. But I was getting used to these two parts of me, the fluttery top part that  felt guilty and wanted to get away from Travis, and the part underneath that seemed to have a  better handle on everything. And it was getting stronger, because it held me in place until I  calmed down enough to speak.

"So you're telling me you're getting serious on me?" I said at last. "That this is more than  fucking after all?"

He really, really looked scared, but now he was angry too. "Roe, you sleep in your own  bed at best once a week. Your toothbrush is here. You get dressed in your apartment, and  occasionally you shower or go over there to "get some space.' This has been more than fucking  for months now." He held on to my arm like he was afraid that now as he'd pointed it out, the  bubble would burst.

Well, he had a valid fear.

Roe is a complete emotional mess and Travis isn’t much better, but watching them limp toward a relationship is addictive.

And let’s talk about the sex. There’s sex. There’s a lot of it. And it’s dirty. I don’t mean dirty in a negative way — I mean it in the hot way. But it’s nasty and dirty and wonderful:

"I like rough," I said, my voice shaky at first, but it got stronger as I went on. "And I like it when I'm told what to do. If you want me ass-up on the bed, you say so. Trash talking is good. You want to tell me I'm your pony or your dog you're fucking, I can do that. I think hotel carpets are gross, so I'd rather not do puppy play on the floor. But in bed's okay. You can tie me up or gag me, but I don't care for both at once. I don't do shower blowjobs because it makes me feel like I'm drowning. I have done watersports, but I don't mind skipping that. But slapping is fine. So is biting so long as you don't draw blood. Pinching is good. Especially my nipples and my ass. Hickeys are okay, but I like to keep them where I can hide them."

I had started talking really fast by the end, and when all of it was out, I let out a breath and waited. After a few seconds, Loving's hand cupped my cock.

"Public exposure?"

His fingers were already on my zipper. I shuddered and pushed my hips forward into his grip. "So long as I don't get arrested."

"Fair enough." He pinched my ass hard enough to make me jump. "Unbutton your fly and put your hands on the table."

There’s puppy play and pony play. There’s bondage and very large dildo(e)s. There’s fisting — hot and extremely well done. At one point Roe says of Travis, “He went around to the back of me and had a little party in my ass.” And the scene that follows is precisely as hot and dirty and nasty as that sounds, in the good way. But readers need to be prepared and appreciative of that kind of sex to enjoy this book, because there’s no enjoying it without the sex.

The rage in this book is partly Roe’s and, to a much smaller extent, Travis’, but mostly, it’s…yours, Ms. Cullinan. You do not make any secret of your political affiliations, but one character has this rant:

She hugged me tight, then sat up wearily. "I don't know that I want to. I mean, there are a lot of nice people who want to adopt, and babies are hard to find. Just look at your brother. Well — I mean, no offense, but I'm not giving my baby to somebody who thinks your orientation needs to be healed. I might not give it to anybody. I don't know. What I do know is that I want to think about it." Her eyes teared up again. "I just — no matter what I do, everything is ruined. Even if I do get an abortion, it's not like I can just go on and forget about it. Which is what pisses me off. What do they think, that I'm some dipshit bitch who can go get an abortion like it's a manicure? And even if there is somebody that nasty, why do I have to suffer because of them? I bet you my student loan check the same "good Christians' who would call me a baby killer would rather turn and shout at you for being gay before they'd take ten minutes to help me through this. That's the way they are. They don't give a shit about anybody but themselves. If I keep my baby and ask for their help, the next thing they'll do is find something wrong with me. And everybody I love. Fuck them and their "pro-life.'" She had stopped crying in the middle of her rant, and now she glared across the room at the wall. "If I keep this baby, I'm going to make damn sure it grows up to kick their bigoted, hateful asses."

You are furious and that righteous fury drives this book, drives the narrative, drives the ending of the story maybe further than it needs to go, for the characters. Roe goes back home with Travis and Haley (no, this book is NOT a menage) and the family get their comeuppance. Roe and Travis get their happy ending — and then some — but it’s written as a big Fuck You! to all the hateful, destructive homophobia out there. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate that. So much. It’s like a dirty X-rated love letter that I will read again and again. But it’s something readers need to be aware of.

So, dirty nasty sex, strong political slant, and brilliantly written emotional journeys. As I said, I adored this book. I will be quoting this book if/when I get into political discussions about whether people with alternate sexualities are going to hell or not (“You can’t pick and choose!”). But it’s not an easy book. It’s easy to fall into and and devour it. But it’s not an easy read.

Grade: B+

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

Book Link | Loose Id