Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Review: Ellen O’Connell’s DANCING ON COALS – Heartrending Story of an Apache Warrior and the Woman who Loved Him—Simply superb!

Set in Arizona Territory and Northern Mexico in 1881 (late in the time of the Apache wars), this one tells the story of Katherine Grant, who on her way home to New York, is saved from stagecoach bandits by a band of Chiricahua Apache. ("I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Before long I'll be dancing on the coals.") The bandits were the frying pan; the handsome young Apache who spoke English and saved her from them was the fire; and the coals were Gaetan, the Chiricahua brave who hated all whites and Mexicans for what they did to “the people.” He wanted her dead. But Gaetan promised his dying brother that he would care for the white woman, so he had no choice but to take her with him.

I absolutely loved Katherine. She was funny, courageous and an independent thinker. No whimpering, reticent female here. Raised on ships sailing the world with her father and 5 brothers, she is a hellion who became a lady but never gave up her love of adventure and her willingness to take on any challenge. And she has lots of them following the Apache warrior, Gaetan. I was on the edge of my seat with attacks by outlaws, renegade Apaches, Mexican soldiers and miners.

As Katherine and Gaetan’s relationship developed, O’Connell made me really care about what happened to them. My heart was committed to seeing them end up happy and together (thankfully this is romance and so you know you’ll see that in the end!). It’s an absorbing story I did not want to put down, one of my favorites by O’Connell.

O’Connell said her story was inspired by the “very strong and very masculine” face of the Apache chief Victorio, who fought for his people in the late 1800s (pictured at right).

O’Connell does a superb job of portraying the Apache way of life and the impossible situation they faced, wedged between the Mexicans who wanted to annihilate them and the Americans who wanted to imprison them on reservations where they became “the dead.” And in the middle of all that were the two lovers who came together from different worlds, and though unlikely, were absolutely perfect for each other.

You won’t be disappointed in this one! It's a keeper! Buy on Amazon.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed Dancing on Coals so much Regan, and thanks for the review. As you know, Native American is not exactly a hot subgenre these days, but once I conceived of the story, I had to write it. The story required more research than any of my other books to date, and I had to eventually force myself to stop researching and write because while the history is heart-breaking, it's also fascinating. Just as there are still people of Cherokee descent in the East, though, I do believe there were people across the country like Katherine and Gaetan who lived hidden but free lives outside the reservation system.

    1. I know just what you mean, Ellen. I have the same issue with my own stories. But I love that you went to the trouble of doing the hard work. It shows in your story and yet one reason it's a keeper. Thanks for bringing such a compelling story to readers!