REVIEW: Sweetheart Braves (Crooked Rock Book 3) by Pamela Sanderson
Tommy Weaver wants to stay sober and that means steering clear of challenging situations, avoiding difficult people, and staying away from personal relationships. Unfortunately, he has a cousin unsuccessfully rehabbing in his spare room while Crooked Rock demands more than he can give, and in the midst of his growing troubles, the irresistible Elizabeth appears.
Elizabeth Lewis couldn’t wait to finish college and get back to the security of her home and family on the reservation. But when her granny, a well-known Indian activist, seeks to right a family wrong, Elizabeth finds herself back in the city and seeking assistance from Crooked Rock. She convinces Tommy to join her and as her mission grows more complicated, he never leaves her side.
Neither of them expected to fall this hard, so what happens when it’s time for Elizabeth to go back home?
This is book 3 in the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center series
Dear Ms. Sanderson,
As soon as I saw that this book had been released, I snapped it up. “Sweetheart Braves” is more focused on relationships with the native part providing the backdrop and motivation and plot but not taking over the plot to the detriment of the main relationship. Even though there are continuing characters from the earlier books in the series, the story sticks with Tommy and Elizabeth as the main couple with some more on Arnie and Linda. I think readers could start here and not be lost though for Arnie and Linda, reading one of the earlier books might help explain their complicated history.
Linda is still fighting the good fight to get the Crooked Rock UIC its own building and the respect they deserve from the (unnamed) city. She’s one tough cookie. Still I can almost feel her exhaustion at times as she tackles one more seeming uphill climb. Ester and Rayann remain determined Ind’n women and it doesn’t do to take them lightly. They’re all like steam engines – the harder you compress the air, the stronger they are. Still, they’d like to have a few things go their way once in a while.
Meanwhile Tommy is plugging along, trying to avoid public speaking. He’s good at driving the elders in the center’s bus and getting the youth basketball games arranged but doesn’t think he’s capable of much more despite the faith shown in him by the Ind’n women surrounding him. He’s also keeping his personal issues to himself and trying not to let them affect his job. But it’s tough when you’re a recovering alcoholic and family has dumped his buddy-in-youth-drinking on him to try and dry her out. Tommy is almost at the end of his frayed rope but still not asking for help.
One of the things he messes up is telling Linda that her Aunt Dotty is coming for a visit. After seeing a historical photo of herself in tribal regalia, Granny wants to see the dress again which was lost to the family years ago. To Granny, it’s not just a dress, it’s actual family with meaning far beyond what the White world sees. Her great-granddaughter Elizabeth thinks getting her Granny down to the museum near where Linda works will allow Granny to see the dress but complications ensue. Of course.
Tommy’s feeling of instant connection to this beautiful woman who is trying to help her elder relation is immediate and it’s this that propels him to try to help the women track down the dress – in another state. Yeah, complications that also involve “borrowing” Linda’s car then rethinking how to solve a problem. As Tommy and Elizabeth think outside the box, they begin to explore their feelings for each other as well as get an idea of how Granny has been fighting for Native rights for decades and what tactics to use. Sometimes you have to do more than just ask for the things you think you deserve.
But can Tommy overcome the danger to his sobriety that his cousin poses? Will Elizabeth gather the courage she needs to challenge herself to do something that scares her? Is there a future for them with Tommy at the UIC and Elizabeth’s job on her rez? And is there hope that the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center will survive in the face of all the obstacles fate keeps throwing at it?
I can feel the determination of all involved to keep Crooked Rock going. They know the need and can see what the programs they offer for Urban Indians does. From youth to the elders, there is need and the staff is going to see it met. At times though, only Indian dry humor keeps them going. That springs off the page too. They’re family no matter their tribal affiliation – though this doesn’t keep them from taking a few sly digs at each other from time to time. All in good fun.
I like that the issues and problems faced by the characters are pertinent to modern Natives/Indians/Ind’ns and faced head on. The past that Tommy finally admitted to in front of his friends made me cry. His cousin might push his buttons but his faith and determination to help her show the type of man he is. As the daughter of an alcoholic myself, I can understand what he goes through when Angie falters.
Elizabeth was raised listening to her Granny speak on Native issues and advocate as well as educate when and where she could. It’s her Granny who has kept Elizabeth in school and who won’t let her great granddaughter be or do less than she can. It pays to listen to elders. Granny also gives Elizabeth the push needed to be all that she can be – or at least see more of the world before deciding that the rez is all she wants in life.
The relationship between Elizabeth and Tommy grows naturally with them learning about each other beyond smexy times. It’s with Elizabeth that Tommy can finally relax and let himself accept help and support. They see the strengths as well as weaknesses in each other and by the end, are in a good place to forge a future.
“Why don’t you sleep?” she said.
“I don’t want to miss you.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said.
There was another quiet pause. Tommy’s breathing evened out, his face peaceful. He forced his eyes open again.
Elizabeth said, “I mean it. I’ll be here. I fell for you when you brought out your cane collection for Granny. I left the rez and drove just for you. I’m in love with you, too. I’m sticking around, if that’s okay.”
He settled back into her.
What I’ve really loved about these books is that they are rooted in Native/Indian/Ind’n culture and traditions. When Granny talks about bringing home her dance dress and what it means to their tribe, it’s “this is our heritage and what it means to us” not just “it’s a pretty artifact.” When Elizabeth, Tommy and the others talk about rez life, they’ve lived it and know it. Arnie might sigh when his mother appears to check out his guest shortly after he gets home but he knew his cousins would immediately tell her and what she’d do. When Linda has to drive a rez car for a few days, she knows she’s going to have problems with it.
Linda and Arnie’s long term friendship with issues continues as they try and move back away from the precipice they neared in the last book. For the good of the Center, they’ll put their contentious feelings aside but there’s a cliffhanger here that has both of them thinking hard. I’m looking forward to seeing what book 4 will bring. A-