Review: Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell

Format: E-bookDacingoncoals
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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Review: Comanche Eagle by Sara Orwig

Format: Paperbackcomancheeagle
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Comanche, Book 2
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: John Dancer Black Eagle / Travis Black Eagle
Heroine: Crystal Spencer
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1, 1998
Started On: March 25, 2011
Finished On: March 26, 2011

I had a hard time obtaining a copy of this romance, a recommendation I got off of an Amazon discussion thread. Although my copy arrived and has been in my possession since sometime late last year, I have refrained from taking the plunge because there aren’t that many raving reviews about this book. However with the current list of lackluster reads that have been my picks for the last couple of days, I decided what the heck and took the plunge. To my delightful surprise Comanche Eagle turned out to be really good making this a memorable read of the theme of marriages of convenience.

Set in Cheyenne, Wyoming territory in 1871, Comanche Eagle tells the story of Crystal Spencer, the first woman to ever hold the position of the Justice of the Peace in Cheyenne. 26 year old Crystal is known amongst citizens of the county as Judge Spinster and has a prim and proper outlook on life and upholding the law where no shades of gray are ever allowed  to cloud her judgement. Crystal has been rejected by a man once before and she has no intention of ever letting a man close enough to hurt her like that ever again and is quite content with her spinsterish existence with her brother and town doctor Ellery Spencer whose vices include drinking and gambling. Crystal yearns to leave the volatile Cheyenne territory where upholding law and order is a challenge day in and day out and wants nothing more than to leave to California to start life over and live in peace.

Travis Black Eagle, farrier and owner of Cheyenne’s livery stables and a successful rancher in his own right is two years older than Crystal and a half-breed that earns his his share of black looks throughout Cheyenne. Happily married to his very pregnant and beautiful wife Elizabeth, Travis is devastated when Ellery attends her birthing with his senses clouted with drink and Ellery’s incompetence lands Travis a widow and a single parent in one night. Grief, anger and deep abiding sorrow are Travis’s companions until he realizes that his son needs a mother, a female presence in his life for him to grow up.

Crystal is left completely alone as her only living relative in the world is shot dead, leaving her with a mount of debt from Ellery’s gambling ways with nowhere to turn to. Travis storms into her life, demanding that she marry him and help him look after his son for which in return Travis would give her a home and security, something which has been sorely lacking in her life the past couple of months. Though Travis’s promise that he has no interest in her as a woman whatsoever drives away Crystal’s feelings of unease which always leaves her with a prickling sensation in Travis’s vicinity, it also leaves her with a vague sense of discontentment that she would never know a man’s warmth and his loving embrace even in marriage.

The marriage of convenience that Travis and Crystal embark upon with their mutual need of providing Jacob, their son with a loving home becomes a journey of discovery for both of them. For Crystal, Travis presents everything that has been missing from her life until now. Tall, broad shouldered and handsome as sin, Travis makes her senses clamor to reach out and touch him and makes her quiver with longing to be possessed by her fierce warrior of a husband in whose eyes she could be just a sack of potatoes for all the interest he shows in her.

For Travis the journey of discovering Crystal is a slow moving one. With grief and love for his dead wife clouding his sense and judgement, Travis barely recognizes Crystal beyond what she provides for his son and it is a deep abiding respect for the woman who loves Jacob like her own that takes a hold of Travis at first. Awareness about his wife whose beauty she tries so hard to keep hidden comes as a shock to someone who has sworn off caring for any woman and giving up his heart for fear that he would once again be subjected to that gut wrenching grief that had taken him over upon Elizabeth’s death.

Want and need which grows deeper by day war with Travis’s need to keep his hands off Crystal who proves to become more alluring as days pass by until finally Travis concedes and gives into the raging inferno that has kept him hot enough to burn a hole through his bedding for the past couple of months. Crystal who is so much in love with her strong and handsome husband who shows his kindness and gentleness in so many little ways couldn’t be happier when Travis finally succumbs and shows her the wonders of giving herself completely to the man she loves.

But Crystal and Travis’s idyllic existence comes to an abrupt halt when Travis’s past catches up with him, creating a chasm between husband and wife that continues to grow by  the minute as both Crystal and Travis choose the opposite sides on a matter of upholding the law that shatters Crystal apart at the mere thought of being true to what she believes in and losing her Travis in the process. In the end, Travis and Crystal’s happily ever after when it comes is a more rewarding one because of their struggles and I loved each and every moment of the sensual and emotional discovery that took them to their final destination in the end.

I think Travis Black Eagle is the closest I would come to in terms of getting a six foot plus hero who makes my heart go aflutter with his utter masculinity and strong character for my birthday. Travis was worth each emotional upheaval I went through in the story, his strength, kindness and loyalty which just adds  to his already strong appeal. I loved him for the way he couldn’t help but be drawn to the honest beauty that is Crystal and the way he seems to have a fascination for stroking Crystal’s neck just makes shivers of the right kind run up and down my spine. And lordy, did I love those hot kisses exchanged on their rides to and from their ranch into town, where every noble intention Travis has of staying away from Crystal seems to evaporate right in front of him.

Crystal’s character is an endearing one in itself because she stays true to who she is regardless of how torn apart she is when it comes to her views on upholding the law and the shades of grey that her husband tries to make her see that is the inevitable reality of life. Her love for Jacob and her intense responsiveness towards Travis together with her fierce love for the both of them made her a heroine who earned all my earnest approval throughout the story.

Comanche Eagle has whetted my appetite to read the other 2 books in the series, both of which promise to be excellent romances if the blurbs are anything to go by.

Highly recommended for fans of historical romances with an American Indian setting, a brooding hero who just about takes your breath away and a love when it comes sweeps you away on a journey that will hold you enthralled till the very last page.

I finish off my review with the scene from the story where Travis’s hold on his tightly reined in control breaks when Crystal declares that it is because Travis finds her odious that he doesn’t want anything to do with her need to have a baby of her own.

Crossing the room to her with a determined gleam in his eye, he ducked a flying tin cup that struck behind him. As she picked up a plate, his hand banded her wrist tightly. His arm swept around her waist.
“The last thing I find you is odious.” He ground out the words in a husky tone. “My God, Crystal!” His dark eyes held fires as he looked into her eyes. He lowered his head, his mouth coming down over hers as his arm tightened and he pulled her against him.
Stunned, Crystal had one moment of shock before a flooding wave of hot desire burst inside her with the press of his mouth on hers. His lips were warm, tender, yet insistent. His tongue was hot and wet against her mouth. Her anger and argument went up in flames of passion.

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