Review: Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell

Format: E-book
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Self-Published
Hero: Gaeten
Heroine: Katherine Grant
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 29, 2011
Started On: December 9, 2011
Finished On: December 10, 2011

You know those books that refuse to let its hold on you go even long after you are done? Yep, Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell is one such novel that I lay thinking about long after I was done. The characters, the passion, the violence and the undying love between two people who are so obviously two halves of one just kept coursing through me, wishing that I could keep on reading their story forever.

The year is 1881 and Katherine Grant is on her way home to New York after travelling throughout the country. The only girl amongst 5 boys, Katherine had grown up running around with her brothers in different parts of the world ever since their mother had died when she was 6 years old. The only reason she had left home unknown to her family had been because they had not believed in her when she had needed it the most, and as Katherine figures, what her family doesn’t know cannot hurt them.

But when armed robbers attack their stagecoach and everyone else but Katherine is killed, her savior comes in the form of Nilchi, an Apache warrior whose lean good looks and fluency with English puts her at ease even with Nilchi’s older brother Gaeten glowering at her, hatred spitting from his eyes at every turn.

But not long after, Gaeten and Katherine are forced to team up, Gaeten’s promise to his younger brother on his deathbed the only reason that prevents Gaeten from testing the sharpness of his knife against the white woman’s throat. Gaeten’s hatred for the White runs and courses deep through his veins. The haze of rage that blinds him is a vicious one ever since his parents had been killed by white men when he had been just 9 years old. But through every harrowing escape that Katherine and Gaeten make together, he comes to realize that even if Katherine is a white woman, the courage of an Apache runs through her blood.

Ellen O’Connell writes romances that are a dying breed in present days. Her honest portrayal of life what it was like back then, the violence, bloodshed, thievery and murder that was part of the daily life comes across vividly and there isn’t one aspect of the novel that I would change. The setting, the characters and the way she brings forth the connection, the sizzling attraction and the oh so strong love between Gaeten and Katherine was just perfect.

Gaeten’s thoughts remain hidden until Chapter 9, the only way to garner his feelings being by how Katherine views his expressions and his behaviour when it comes to her. Even bound by his promise to his brother, Gaeten would like nothing more than to leave her behind, but unbeknown to him, the connection that is forged between them during their escape and trek through the wilderness binds him to her, even when Gaeten tries so hard to deny it. I was halfway in love with him even way before that, the minute he charged into the story on horseback, intent on killing the woman who would later turn his life around. And as the story progressed, I was mesmerized by Gaeten, the way he slowly transforms and leaves behind the black rage that surrounds him, the healing which comes from Katherine’s acceptance of him, just the way he is.

Katherine is the type of heroine that is trademark Ellen O’Connell. She creates them courageous with an inner beauty that makes it inevitable that the reader would fall for her as well. Katherine is a practical woman, who had turned away from her fiance back home when he had done something she would never abide by. Even when fear for her life at Gaeten’s hands makes her tremble, she doesn’t back down, making it that much harder for Gaeten to dismiss her as just another white woman. The way she accepts, loves and desires Gaeten just the way he is makes for one of the best aspects of the story, the way she “tames” her fierce husband reason enough to revel in this story.

Exceptionally crafted as is usual for Ellen’s novels, Dancing on Coals is a novel not to be missed for fans of the genre. To read the beautifully done afterword is enough reason to read this novel, the research that Ellen has done to write this story one that shines throughout and one that I applaud wholeheartedly.

Favorite Quotes

He entered her in a single hard thrust, opening her, stretching her and forcing a moan of surprise from her. She was ready, so ready, and yet totally unprepared. She’d been wrong. She was still virgin to this, to his strength and her need, to the pleasure and the pain and the sheer triumph of having him. He drove into her and she rose to him, clutched him tighter, harder. Her nails raked and dug into his back, her teeth into his neck.

“Your skin is white, but I think the white god made a mistake, or maybe he did it on purpose to play a joke. He gave you an Apache heart.”

She toyed with the top button of his shirt. “Do Apaches kiss?”
“The people believe the mouth is only for eating.”
“Oh.” She didn’t try to hide her disappointment.
He shifted her against him a little and cupped her breast with one hand, his thumb rubbing across the nipple. “They also believe a woman’s breast is only for nursing a child.”
Lowering his mouth over hers, he ran his tongue between her lips, exploring her tongue, making her shiver with a stroke along the roof of her mouth.
When he raised his head at last, she whispered, “I’m glad you’re an unbeliever.”

Facing him, she saw what she didn’t need to see to know. Even if most wives experienced being washed by a fully aroused, naked husband, they would never know this — a man no words had been invented to describe, beyond handsome, beyond beautiful. His skin glowed copper in the light from the fire, shadows emphasizing the curves of muscle and planes of bone. His erection was hers, for her.

If a man could taste wind and fire, they would taste like Katherine. When he stood in high places looking down on things made small by distance, he tried to feel what the eagle felt soaring free on the wind. He was an earthbound man. Only his spirit could ever soar, and only Katherine raised him so high.

He entered her slowly, determined to keep a tight hold on the lust pounding in his veins. She wrapped her legs higher, took him deeper and deeper. Her hands dug into the muscles of his rear, urging, telling him what she wanted and what he needed were the same. He obeyed and thrust harder, driving into her not with anger but with a desperate raw need. He felt her climax, her body arching, tightening and contracting around him as she cried out against his neck. He shuddered with the intensity of the explosion that wracked his body and spirit and wrung a deep cry from him.
“Katherine.” I was afraid. I missed you. I love you.

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[xrr rating=5/5]

Caliber Seal: OUTSTANDING READ!