A Ranger’s Tale

9781612351209_p0_v2_s600Title: A Ranger’s Tale
Author: Mysti Parker
Release Date: April 2010
Length: 257 pages
Series?: Tallenmere #1
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

In the fantasy world of Tallenmere, an elven noblewoman longed to leave her gilded cage. A half-breed former pirate wanted nothing more than to escape his guilty past. Easier said than done… 

Caliphany Aranea, nearly a century old, leads an enviable life as high elf King Leopold’s niece and daughter of Sirius, Leogard’s most famous wizard. Yet, being forced to follow in her father’s footsteps and being betrothed to a man she doesn’t even like makes her want a taste of life outside the city walls. 

As a young boy, half-elf Galadin Trudeaux witnessed his parents’ death at the hands of pirates. After being raised by those same murderers and forced to do their bidding, he escaped and now lives an honest life as a sea merchant and ranger. 

When two brutes at Leogard Harbor attempt to kidnap Caliphany while she dreams of faraway lands, Galadin comes to her rescue. Impressed by his skills, she asks him to train her as a ranger. Though he is hesitant at first to train a woman of her class, Caliphany’s hefty sack of gold finally persuades him. Unfortunately, her father is not amused, and the two must escape before Caliphany faces a forced marriage and Galadin faces a noose. 

From that moment on, to the finale, where Caliphany must decide where her heart truly lies, she and Galadin embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Only if they can survive the trials ahead, will they find a love that stands the test of time. 

Review

This book is more than meets the eye. Do not be fooled by the cover! (You may find it with a slightly different cover, and a slightly different beginning.)

Caliphany has grown up her entire life living a privileged life, as the niece of the king. But right under his nose her father torments her with his cold cruelty, even locking her away at times. After the death of her older brother at a young age, she has been in line to take over as a Mage to teach wizardry – and betrothed to an annoying intellectual boy she grew up with.

Since following in her father’s footsteps is a requirement, a family legacy, doing anything else is out of the question. Caliphany is terrified to openly defy her father, but while he’s away she asks a very resourceful, skilled Ranger to teach her how to survive in the wild and use various weapons…and falls in love in the process. Only, fate would have it’s ugly way when everything seemed perfect.

Caliphany is forced to make many decisions about herself, her life and her future and must truly determine where her heart lies.

Once Caliphany’s life seemed on the up-and-up, I smelled the bigger issue from a mile away. I had an inkling of what the disaster was that was going to strike, and the closer I approached it when reading, the more painful it became for me to read. I will say this though: Parker did surprise me in the turn of events that take place once Caliphany returns home.

Once back at home, Caliphany’s relationship with her father undergoes some TLC. It’s surprising how certain life events can change someone. But, as fate would have it, things don’t remain that way for long, and a very unsuspecting character thinks to take it all.

I tremendously enjoyed reading this first installment of Parker’s Tallenmere series. I found Caliphany an interesting mix of a character: scared of her father, yet defiant in a “safe” environment (aka when he’s gone and she thinks he won’t find out). She shows an amazing amount of compassion and is given a lot of trials to struggle through. She is put in several compromising and tough decisions.

About the Author

200025_103787076370825_4452630_nMysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. The highly anticipated third book, Hearts in Exile, has already received some great reviews. The Tallenmere series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey.

Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She has also served as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s six week free course, F2K.

Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

The Quest for Juice

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Title: The Quest for Juice
Author: Jonathan-David Jackson
Publisher: Kipling Books
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 290 pages (paperback)
Series?: Paranoia #1
Genre: humor
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Oscar has always lived a life of quiet paranoia, but now everything is changing. Suddenly, the bus is frequently late, his house key won’t fit in the lock, and someone has taken his juice, which was the one thing holding his life together. He strikes back against the people behind it all, but when he strikes too hard an innocent man ends up dead, and Oscar ends up in jail, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and facing life in a mental institution. On his journey to mental health and the truth, he has to make hard decisions about medication, trusting his own mind, dating a nurse, and whether that hedgehog can actually talk.

Review

Oscar Well is something else. He is absolutely certain that someone is following him, that “they” are plotting against him. They have stolen his juice, they have tampered with his house key. He is so fearful that he even suspects his very own mother of being in on this plot of deceit against him. He hides in the clothes dryer to avoid her.

Oscar is certifiably insane, no joke about it. Indeed, he is committed to an institution after following a man who he believes is in on this ring…and something terrible happens, something that Oscar refuses to admit.

Oscar is taken to Maple Ridge, where he is put in a bolted room. He is there for an indeterminate amount of time, several weeks at least, and encounters a sweet nurse who suffers from his same mental disorder: schizophrenia. Instead of taking his prescription medicine, Oscar obstinately ignores it, believing it too is somehow being used against him to confuse him and dampen his worries and fears. Nurse Penelope is a gentle woman, and shares her own stories and experiences with Oscar, ultimately convincing him to take his medication as prescribed. He is almost infinitely on the right track, no longer in a constant state of fear, paranoia, worry and skepticism about people.

Eventually, Oscar is free to live his normal life, but things are strange. Even those who are sane around him notice these very odd and bizarre things. Oscar pays them no mind and their paranoid ideas no mind. He begins a sweet courtship with Nurse Penelope, until he tells her about the cameras his new job has installed in his house.

This leads Oscar on a wild goose chase, and the novel picks up momentum at this point. Things are not as they seem…

This book touches on a very serious matter – and includes some very serious content – yet it is written in an extremely humorous light, almost to the point of being characterized too much and over the top. I’m not schizophrenic, nor do I know anyone who is, so I have no idea if the stream of consciousness  that Jackson has used in this book is accurate of schizophrenia, but it is so insane that you can’t help but laugh…continuously.

Although Oscar suffers from schizophrenia, he has a very sharp mind. Too sharp for his own good. The misconception of his reality is as accurate as can be…

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About the Author

Jonathan-David Jackson was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, at 3 in the morning on May 14, 1987. At first, he could not walk, talk, or indeed use the toilet. After a year of intensive training in NC, he moved his family to Kingsport, Tennessee, where he finally overcame those early disabilities. Soon, he was walking and talking as good as anyone, and perhaps better. Walking and talking wasn’t good enough, though, so he also learned to write.

He wrote and wrote, and with gentle encouragement from his wife, he finally wrote a book – The Quest for Juice. Then he wrote this biography. Perhaps he’ll do more things; that would certainly be exciting.

Find the author: Website | Blog | Facebook 

Book Review: Warrior’s Oath

18625006Title: Warrior’s Oath
Author: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: October 2013
Length:  264 pages
Series?: Sacred Promises #2
Genre: YA, supernatural, romance
Format: e-book

Synopsis: 

With war raging between the last two ruling families, the Skye’s and the Fino’s, Abbey will be forced to step up and announce herself as the rightful queen to the world of Elementals sooner than expected. At which time, her chosen advisors will also be declared. Including the person whose oath she unknowingly accepted to stand by her side.

Beginning her journey by traveling to Iceland to meet Garik’s family, and ask their blessing to put him through the trials to be her First, brings forth an entire new world. She dives deeper into the world of a warrior and what it means to have a family.

After a vision of destruction Abbey must make a decision to save a school or let it fall to Fino’s army. Saving it will mark her identity, but letting it fall would mean the loss of many innocents. Either way, her life will never be the same after her decision.

Review

A rift had been forming between the last two ruling families, the Skye’ s and the Fino’s. Their desires for power were now strong enough that there was only room for one. 

Nathan has gone and done it now. He’s used the powers of his Chosen Mate bond and cornered Abbey into admitting some very serious feelings. Little did Abbey know that Kaleb had followed in her wake and overheard this whole conversation.

Kaleb has been missing for two months. Not one single word from him. Abbey cannot shimmer to him any more. Nevara is not being very helpful either. The bond with Nathan is wearing on her every day. It’s getting harder and harder to resist him, and Kaleb is showing no signs of manning up and standing by her side.

I was not a bystander. I would not stand there and do nothing while watching innocence fall. 

While Abbey’s personal life is falling apart, so is their world. Fino has disbanded the Knights of Noir Council, and is enlisting and drafting Warriors as his own soldiers. He’s even gone so far as to draft Warriors from one of the other sister schools of Maramec.

I knew I could not take the world by myself. 

Just as in Sacred Promises, Abbey must make some very tough decisions, but this time she must make them almost instantaneously. There is no time to wait, and no time to lose. She must gather her chosen warriors and advisors, and fully mark them as her own.

What had this day become? Was this what my future held, a life full of fighting and death where even the lines between family loyalties became blurred? 

Kaleb finally comes around after a very blunt conversation that Abbey has with Nevara, which leads to her extending the oath to him. Unfortunately for them both, it’s a drunken night filled with Elemental punch, and neither can remember what happened…but Nathan has a pretty good idea. He no longer shares the bond with Abbey, and it isn’t hard to deduce why.

Abbey rallies her Divine Order around her, and those who will stand by her, to protect the sister school at Machu Piccu against Fino and his red soldiers. But then he comes to attack her very own school – and there’s nowhere for them to be protectively hidden from his wrath. Indeed, there are some traitors in the midsts.

This book eventually lands Abbey, Kaleb and Nevara back in her tribe and a lot of her history and marriage are explained. Will the animosity of years gone by, bad blood, and scorned love prevail in order to save Kaleb?

Sometimes no matter how much you think you know someone, you honestly have no iota of a clue. 

Traitors do run rampant in this novel, and I totally didn’t see the ending coming. Garik’s sister, Rowan, has been taken by a traitor who was once near and dear to Abbey. I’m sure this is where the next book, The Divine Order, will open. It will be available sometime in the spring.

Despite the wonderful spin put on this book, I do feel like this book was more rushed than the first in the series, that some of the finesse from Sacred Promises was lost along the way just to get the storyline across, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

Find my review of Sacred Promises here.

About the Authors

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Jennifer Hines

Jennifer Hines is a wife, mother, and indie author. She loves reading, writing, and taking long road trips.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Scanguards Vampires by Tina Folsom, and the Crossfire Novels by Sylvia Day.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

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Mindy Bigham

Mindy Bigham is a wife, a mother, and an indie author. She loves reading, writing, and vacationing anywhere there’s a beach.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series by Michelle Mead, and The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

Find the authors: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads – Hines | Goodreads – Bigham

Check out Charlie’s interview with the authors!

-CA

Book Review: Sacred Promises

18073005Title: Sacred Promises
Author: Jennifer Hines & Mindy Bigham
Publisher: Smashwords
Release Date: April 2013
Length:  292 pages
Series?: Sacred Promises #1
Genre: YA, supernatural, romance
Format: e-book

Synopsis: 

Most children grow up in loving homes, with parents who tell them bedtime stories. Not Abbey. She spent her childhood training for a battle that always seemed too far away to ever become real. 

In a world of Elementals, now corrupted and misguided by the ruling families, a queen must rise up and make right the wrongs her people have had to suffer through in absence of a true leader. After spending her entire life secretly training with her guardian, eighteen-year-old Abbey must now join the Maramec Conservatory as a student, entering into a world where she will meet other Elementals, Mystics, Watchers, and Warriors. Being surrounded by the people she will someday rule over, she must keep her identity as future queen from being discovered, while managing to create friendships and deciding whom she can trust to stand by her side both now and as queen.

Review

Teenage Abbey has grown up in secrecy with her guardian, Nevara, who has taught her everything she could possibly need to become the queen. Nevara has prepped and trained Abbey for this moment: entering the Maramec Conservatory in the guise of a student, where she will study with other Elementals, Mystics, Watchers and Warriors. Nevara has versed Abbey on the school as much as possible, but the rest is up to Abbey.

Watchers and Warriors are housed together and known as the Knights of Noir, protectors of the people, and kept separate from Elemental, who have a range of abilities with one of the four elements and the very rare Mystics, gifted with sight and healing.

Abbey has to keep her identity a secret and her cards close. She must navigate the troubled waters of the Conservatory where so many students of different backgrounds converge – and avoid detection from students of the ruling families. Every 50 years a new queen is born with specific marking on her back, and in the last 200 years there hasn’t been a queen that’s surfaced – meaning only one thing: someone is finding the queens…and getting rid of them.

Seeing and living were two completely different things.

Abbey can’t afford to make enemies, but she can’t allow anyone in either. As her roommate soon spills all the gossip, Abbey finds she is the center of attention. Quickly she finds herself locked in stalemate with her mentor – fellow student Kaleb Storm, who has some unsavory rumors circulating about his past and his heritage. Kaleb takes his duties in the highest regard, yet there’s also something about Abbey…and someone else notices.

Soon Abbey is found in the middle of a love triangle, and things get ugly. One night could have ruined everything – her, her role, and the future of her citizens. Abbey’s new barrage of defenders are taking her safety seriously: she must have someone from her group with her at all times. This complicates things as Kaleb, and Abbey’s rescuer Garik, are also on the hunt. Kaleb and Garrik are both Knights of Noir, warriors meant to protect the people.

Abbey has to face some hard decisions. Does she tell Kaleb the truth? Does she tell her friends? Then comes a third guy into the picture, vying for Abbey’s heart – and he instinctively knows who she is, and that they are destined to be together. Nathan’s not making it easy on Abbey, as she struggles to stay true to Kaleb and out of the grips of the stalking wolf-changeling Darrian, who always seems to be one step ahead of Abbey’s posse of protectors. Meanwhile, Abbey learns the true identity of her guardian, who is connected to Kaleb.

This novel was so much more than I expected, and I was amazed at the range of change and growth in the main characters. Abbey struggles with many decisions throughout the novel, and the more problems that develop, the harder it is for her. Through the narration, readers are privy to the change in Abbey that reflect that she will be a kind, just, but strong queen. Abbey’s character is one who must come to terms with the fact that she’s not normal: she’s the queen in hiding, and while reading all I could think when I read narration from Abbey’s thoughts was how graceful she was in her attitude and mentality.

The novel was also unique in that a few chapters are denoted to be told from Kaleb’s point of view in first-person, so readers get insight into his thoughts and can understand his emotions. There is a chapter where this differentiation from the narration is crucial, so I applaud the authors’ use of this technique.

It is a wonderful, thrilling read and I could not put it down. I fell asleep with my Kindle several nights. The novel ends in somewhat of a lurch, but in a nice way, which I expect is going to open the conflict in the sequel, Warrior’s Oath. I’m looking forward to great things in Warrior’s Oath. I expect Hines and Bigham to deliver, and I am betting I won’t be disappointed.

About the Authors

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Jennifer Hines is a wife, mother, and indie author. She loves reading, writing, and taking long road trips.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Scanguards Vampires by Tina Folsom, and the Crossfire Novels by Sylvia Day.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

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Mindy Bigham is a wife, a mother, and an indie author. She loves reading, writing, and vacationing anywhere there’s a beach.

She enjoys reading and writing mostly fantasy, paranormal romance, romance, and basically anything with vampires (the sparkly and/or sexy kind and not so much the freaky and scary kind), shifters, or magic – YA through erotica. Her favorite books/series include: The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series by Michelle Mead, and The Breathless Trilogy by Maya Banks.

Friend her on Goodreads to follow all of her reviews both requested and personal, and to see what she’s currently reading.

Find the authors: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads – Hines | Goodreads – Bigham

Check out Charlie’s interview with the authors!

-CA

Book Review: Becoming Bryn

17977051Title: Becoming Bryn
Author: Angela Carling
Publisher: Acacia Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 310 pages
Series?: n/a
Genre: YA
Format: e-book

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Synopsis

For months, Jesse has been envious of her twin sister Bryn and even has a crush on Bryn’s gorgeous, popular boyfriend, Quinton. When Jesse awakens from a coma to learn that everyone thinks she IS Bryn, the option of actually taking over her sister’s life is beyond tempting, but there’s a downside. She’d have to give up Ethan, her best friend and the only person she trusts. Could she actually live as Bryn for the rest of her life? And if her family and friends found out, would they ever forgive her?

Review

If I had known today that I would take the first step toward the biggest mistake of my life, I would’ve stayed home. 

I knew before reading this book what it was about, but for some reason about a quarter of the way through I started resenting the book. I lost a sister – not my twin, but she was a twin – and this caused a decade of issues between my mother and me. It was hard for me to continue reading, reflecting on what my life had been like losing a sister, compared to how Bryn’s family is taking it in: in particular the references to Bryn being the favored (and perhaps more loved?) daughter.

Finally, my true feelings, the ones that I’d been denying for a good three months, gave way and I whispered, “I want to be loved like that.”

I  became peeved at the ease in which Jesse seemed to take over Bryn’s life. Besides having to learn how to wear popular clothing (that matched!), accessorize, and amp up the make-up skills, it seemed like a piece of cake….at first. And that’s when I got hooked. My attitude about this book and Jesse’s character – and Bryn’s for that matter – completely changed, and I think it is because Angela Carling did an interesting thing in this book.

My parents had always told me that life isn’t fair. Apparently neither was death. 

Many people believe in some form of an afterlife after people pass away, that loved ones have a place to go. Many people also believe in spirits/ghosts of some sort who hang around taking care of unfinished business. Carling incorporates both of these ideas into her novel, and creates a defined place for what this afterlife looks like. There are alternating chapters between Jesse and Bryn, in which Bryn explains the composition of the afterlife, and gets to view Jesse – and all those in her life – through an observation window. She is able to change the view in which she sees Jesse, and pan to other people at different locations. Bryn is not alone: she meets and elderly woman named Tu and a young girl named Summer, who are deadies like Bryn, that wait with Bryn and help her ease into the new transition of the afterlife. Tu and Summer teach Bryn things, help her realize things. And they wait with Bryn to see how Jesse’s new life will play out.

By taking over Bryn’s life, I was supposed to be improving people’s lives, not making them worse. 

Most importantly, Bryn learns she can send Jesse messages through Jesse’s dreams. This is what she does to send Jesse to her own journals, where she wrote all manner of things down every day – right down to the exact outfit she wore. Through these journals, Jesse could have learned the truth about Bryn’s life before it was too late – before more mistakes were made. But all of these things come to a head, and through Bryn’s journals, Jesse discovers her sister in a new light. Bryn is no longer an artificial, popular girl. She’s a girl who was proud of her sister, inspired by her sister, who took a job to donate money to a very worthy cause for something much-needed. In a lot of ways, Bryn wanted to trade lives with Jesse, which is how they ended up where they are after trading costumes at Halloween.

At least, if Jesse was going to steal my identity, she was finally starting to do it with some guts and that made me proud of her. 

Throughout the novel, Bryn experiences growth in her dead state, and Jesse also experiences growth. I don’t think this novel would be complete without Bryn’s commentary and visions from the afterlife, through the observation window. Initially, she is pissed that her sister is trying to take over her life, that once the injuries from the accident have healed, her sister is not speaking up about her true identity. But being a woman, she thinks she has the last word: Quinton isn’t the perfect boyfriend like Jesse thinks – let her find out the hard way! But Bryn has a change of heart, and in the end tries desperately to intervene and finish her business on earth through Jesse…or at least steer Jesse in the right direction. Bryn is definitely more than meets the eye.

As the novel was wrapping up, I saw a distinct turn of events that I knew were going to end badly, but Carling had some tricks up her sleeve, and she was able to pull off something flawless through Bryn’s journals. I thought I had it all figured out, and then a sweet twist got thrown in.

My one “aaaarrrrggghhh!” moment with this book was at the point when Jesse’s mom shares a personal story of how she actually ended up marrying their father – and the mistakes she made and the consequences she has lived with. She tells Jesse that you can change your life, but that doesn’t make the consequences disappear. Instead of heeding this advice and mirroring it in the romantic way it was intended, Jesse totally disregards it and does what she wants: pursue’s Bryn’s no-good, lying, cheating rich, gorgeous boyfriend Quinton. That was my only real beef. I feel that she didn’t try hard enough pursuing her other option, giving it enough time to come to fruition before jumping the gun and settling…on a bad choice.

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About the Author

I was born and raised in Palm Springs, California and after living in several different states ended up back in yet another desert in Arizona, where I reside with my husband, three kids and five cats.  We’ve now lived here for ten years and haven’t melted yet, although we have fried eggs on the sidewalk. We love to escape to our cabin in the mountains or to my favorite place, the beach. I have several obsessions, including my passion for all kinds of music and my inability to stop buying cheap jewelry. I am often caught singing in public bathrooms, just for the acoustics, or rollerblading through my neighborhood while singing loudly to whatever is playing on my iPod. I love to have lots of flowers in my garden and shiny things in my house.  My favorite holiday of all (going along with the shiny things theme) is Christmas. All in all, I consider myself the luckiest, most blessed person alive and am so happy to have this opportunity to write and also to share my writing with other people!

Find the author: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Check out Charlie’s interview with Angela!

-CA

Book Review: One Thousand White Women

33512Title: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
Author: Jim Fergus
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: January 1998
Length: 304 pages
Series?: n/a
Genre: historical fiction
Format: paperback

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Synopsis

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Review

*Note: This is a work of historical fiction. The author includes a note to readers about the making of this book, which did come about from an actual historical event, but has fictionalized what follows and fictionalized the actions of characters, some of which were actual historical figures of the time.

But even old money…and the equally unparalleled ability of the rich to keep dark secrets, could not completely obscure the whispered rumors that trickled down through the generations that May Dodd had actually died under somewhat mysterious circumstances…

This novel centers around the historical event of a peace conference in 1854, held at Ft. Laramie. A Cheyenne chief, Little Wolf, requests one thousand white women to be brides for his Cheyenne warriors, as their society is matrimonial. Children would belong to their mothers’ society – white man society. This was asked in hopes of assimilating the Cheyenne people, uniting two races, and creating peace. Of course, this request was met with a resounding no, and no white women ever were given to the Cheyennes as brides. However, Jim Fergus has written this novel and changed history: in his novel, the United States government sends the white women to marry into the Cheyenne tribes.

Among the wealthy, ancestral insanity has always been a source of deep-rooted embarrassment.

The novel begins with an introduction by Will Dodd, the great-grandson of May Dodd. He wonders what truly became of his great-grandmother, as his is a family of considerable money, high in the ranks of society and there is a rumored family legend that she ran off to live with Indians. Secrets are kept close to the bosom about May Dodd, the black mark in the Dodd family.

He finds a letter written from May to her two children, Hortense and William, and sets about on a journey to discover more than the mere footnote in “the heavily edited family history” in which May Dodd is mentioned in the scarcest of manners:

Born March 20, 1850…second daughter of J. Hamilton and Hortense Dodd. Hospitalized at age 23 for a nervous disorder. Died in hospital, February 17, 1876.

The rumors of May’s life fuel young Will’s yearning for true discovery of his ancestor, especially after his father wastes away the rest of the family fortune and his brother does not return from Vietnam. Will puts his college degree to good use, becoming the editor in chief of a local magazine, and stumbles upon May’s name in researching information for an article. It sparks an interest in him, and he delves deeper into his family’s archives, where he discovers May’s letter to her children. This leads Will to a reservation, where he discovers May has left several journals that have been kept safe.

The novel is broken into notebooks, serving the purpose of various points of reference and time, distinguishing significant changes in May Dodd’s life. From this point it opens up into May’s journals, with each entry meticulously dated.  In total, there are seven notebooks.Indeed, there are even some letters contained within her first few notebooks – letters to her sister, also named Hortense, and letters to the father of her two children.

May explains how she landed in an asylum – placed there at the hands of her own family. Hers is a wretched life, but then one day something odd happens: two strangers come to the institution. They are seeking volunteers to lend themselves to the U.S. government as brides for the Indians, in a back-door, hush-hush operation. Who would want to admit to the public that he’d authorized – and set in motion – for white women to be sent to breed with the savages? That would be quite scandalous, indeed.

This is an incentive for May. She could very well be free of the place! And that is just what she sets out to do, and she achieves it.

It is made clear to readers that May Dodd comes from a prominent Chicago family, who mercilessly turn their backs upon her. I find it quite ingenious that she one-ups them at their own game, little unbeknownst to them, until much, much later. She is determined to take full advantage of her newly freed soul.

Along the way, she meets other women who travel with her and will also marry. Hers is a mixed bag of women: a woman who worked at the asylum she was imprisoned within, a mulatto runaway slave, a large, brawny Swiss, a racist Southern belle, an Englishwoman author and artiste of bird life, a widow in mourning, a young girl from the asylum (believed to be the director of the asylum’s offspring), mischievous twin Irish sisters and a holier-than-thou evangelical Episcopalian.

It seems that May Dodd and I are kindred spirits: [in a letter to her sister about her Episcopalian companion]

I’m afraid that Miss White and I have taken an instant dislike to one another, and I fear that we are destined to become bitter enemies. She is enormously tiresome and bores us all witless with her sanctimonious attitudes and evangelical rantings. As you well know, Hortense, I have never had much interest in the church. Perhaps the hypocrisy inherent in Father’s position as a church elder, while remaining one of the least Christ-like men I’ve ever known, has something to do with my general cynicism toward organized religion of all kinds. 

Indeed, I do not hold stock in organized religion of any sort, after many years of seeing the selfish and unkind actions of congregations of several different denominations. In this sense, I felt a strong sense of ties to May Dodd. In addition, the satirical way the she relates her tale through her letters and her journal entries is also endearing, and it is quickly quite clear that an asylum was not in any way a need for May Dodd.

I got a bigger battery than you. 

Despite May Dodd’s privileged upbringing, she is not disillusioned into what her mission is: copulate with the Cheyenne population. She is on a secret mission (although not very secret at all of the stops along the way, it seems) to teach the Cheyennes how to live after the buffalo have gone. It is a tall order, and one that the Cheyennes do not really care for, although that is exactly what they asked for in their request.

They get a small number of wives, sent in the first shipment, and through a series of events it becomes clear that’s all they are going to get. Indeed, it seems the U.S. government has gotten itself into some hot water in hasty decisions, and must save face to the public…and in doing so is turning its collective back on the white women it sent into the wilds to live with the barbarians.

Along the way, May and her cohorts are under the direction of one Captain John Bourke. He is an actual historical figure, who served with General Crook, known to the Indians as “Three Stars.” Fergus has fictionalized Bourke in this sense, except for an excerpt at the beginning of a notebook, who grows fond of May on their short journey where he finally delivers May to Little Wolf’s tribe, but not before the two encounter one night of passion. May has been selected to be the bride of Little Wolf, the chief of one tribe on the Cheyenne.

What we risk creating when we tamper with God’s natural separation of the races will not be one harmonious people, but a people dispossessed, adrift, a generation without identity or purpose, neither fish nor fowl, Indian nor Caucasian.

This novel does carry religious, political and serious moral undertones, and Miss White’s introduction is just the beginning of this. It is continued through the Reverend Hare, who leaves the tribe in a very unsatisfactory way, grievously offending the sensibilities of the church. That being said, Fergus does not nobilize the Native American, but clearly paints the picture of prejudices of the time – prejudices that ran deep. These hatreds are realized through May’s writings, through her perspective, which I believe to be mostly unbiased (except for one conversation near the end of the novel with Phemie, the runaway slave); she clearly details the hatreds of the civilized white man, and those of the Indians as well. Neither is left morally unscathed in May’s accounts, but the white man is found to be seriously lacking, particularly in this passage:

According to Captain Bourke…the only true hope for the advancement of the savage is to teach him that he must give up this allegiance to the tribe and look towards his own individual welfare. This is necessary, Bourke claims, in order that he may function effectively in the ‘individualized civilization’ of the Caucasian world. To the Cheyenne such a concept remains completely foreign–the needs of the People, the tribe, and above all the family within the tribe are placed always before those of the individual. In this regard they live somewhat like the ancient clans of Scotland. The selflessness of my husband, Little Wolf, for instance, strikes me as most noble and something that hardly requires ‘correction’ by civilized society.  In support of his own thesis, the Captain uses the unfortunate example of the Indians who have been pressed into service as scouts for the U.S. Army. These men are rewarded for their efforts as good law-abiding citizens–paid wages, fed, clothed, and generally cared for. The only requirement of their employment, their allegiance to the white father, is that they betray their own people and their own families…I fail to see the nobility or the advantage of such individualized private initiative…

In many cases our lives were more difficult for being of mixed blood, for we were considered neither black nor white, and resented by both. 

One thing that I do not believe May ever realized is that a half-breed, like the ones the women encounter on the edges of the forts, do not have a foot in either world, are not a part of either race. In this time, if you were of a mixed race – no matter what makeup they may be – you were essentially an outcast, as the above quote (from Phemie) states. May strongly believes in her mission, until Captain Bourke, unable to relinquish his tie to May, provides some unsettling details. Her new-found life is shaken to the core.

There is no power in a baby’s hand. 

In reading this book, I had no idea what journey Fergus was taking me on as a reader, where May Dodd would eventually end up. I was left on this precipice, trying to form predictions over halfway through the book, to no avail. All things eventually begin leading in one direction, with May pushing and encouraging the direction of Little Wolf’s band of Cheyenne people, but with resistance from him until their child is born. Their daughter is unique, and Little Wolf interprets her as the Cheyenne baby Jesus, sent to save their people, but the May Dodd – and all of the other white women – know otherwise.

Fergus wraps his story up with young Will Dodd finally reaching his reservation destination, speaking with other descendants of May Dodd, and a final chapter of her life is revealed through a young monk’s final chapter in her last notebook.

The ending of this novel caught me entirely off guard, as I was unsure how it would wrap up. I am a sentimental person, and as such I can sometimes become agitated with an author’s lack of attentiveness  to what I consider a proper ending. (I know, it’s a personal thing. I’m working on it.) However, I was highly intrigued as well because I am a Cheyenne descendant, and I wanted to know how Fergus would wrap up this fictionalized tale of the Cheyenne and May Dodd’s part in it all. I was pleasantly surprised, and my sentimental side was appeased with his gentle ending, despite my broken heart.

Little Wolf and Dull Knife

I do commend Fergus for his amazing representation of May Dodd’s character. He has created her with a witty and sharp mind, and it is easy to forget when reading that this novel was written by a man, so well has Fergus created Dodd’s character.

I highly recommend this read to any and all, especially if you are not well-versed in Native American history, specifically in terms of interactions with the United States government. Given my heritage, and general fascination with this time period, I am fairly well-versed in Native American culture and history, and nothing in this novel was out of place. Fergus is honest and clear in his representation of the government (and stronghold military) and its dealings with the Native Americans, and it is starkly seen in this novel.

In addition, in the back of the novel is a reading group component comprised of three sections: a further note from Jim Fergus, a detailed interview with him, and very critical questions for book clubs. This content is usually ignored in general, I feel, but this short inclusion is well worth the few pages it’s typed on. Fergus has also included a bibliography of his research that helped him provide accurate details portrayed in the novel.

About the Author

Jim Fergus was born in Chicago of a French mother and an American father. He attended high school in Massachusetts and graduated as an English major from Colorado College in 1971. He has traveled extensively and lived over the years in Colorado, Florida, the French West Indies, Idaho, France, and Arizona. For ten years he worked as a teaching tennis professional in Colorado and Florida, and in 1980 moved to the tiny town of Rand, Colorado (pop. 13), to begin his career as a full-time freelance writer. He was a contributing editor of Rocky Mountain Magazine, as well as a correspondent of Outside magazine. During the next two decades Fergus published hundreds of articles, essays, interviews and profiles in a wide variety of regional and national magazines and newspapers. His first book, a travel/sporting memoir titled, A HUNTER’S ROAD, was published by Henry Holt in 1992.

jim_fergus

Fergus’s first novel, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN: The Journals of May Dodd was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1998. The novel won the 1999 Fiction of the Year Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. A favorite selection of reading groups across the country, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN has since sold over 700,000 copies in the United States. The French translation – MILLE FEMMES BLANCHES – won the “Best First Foreign Novel” award, was on the bestseller list in France for 57 weeks, and has sold over 400,000 copies in that country.

In 1999, Jim Fergus published a collection of his outdoor articles and essays, titled THE SPORTING ROAD. In the spring of 2005, his second novel, THE WILD GIRL: The Notebooks of Ned Giles was published by Hyperion Press. An historical fiction set in the 1930′s in Chicago, Arizona, and the Sierra Madre of Mexico, THE WILD GIRL has also been embraced by reading groups and book clubs. Winston Groom, author of FOREST GUMP called it, “an exhilarating and suspenseful tale that makes the heart soar.”

In 2011, Fergus published a family historical fiction in France entitled,MARIE-BLANCHE. The novel spans the entire 20th century, and tells the devastating tale of the complicated and ultimately fatal relationship between the author’s French mother and grandmother.  The American edition of MARIE-BLANCHE will be published in the United States in 2014.

In the spring of 2013, Fergus published another novel in France, CHRYSISPortrait d’Amour, a love story set in 1920′s Paris and based on the life of a actual woman painter, Chrysis Jungbluth. Reviewing CHRYSIS in French ELLE magazine, Olivia de Lamberterie,wrote: “This novel is an arrow through the heart.”

Chrysis has just been published in America with the title THE MEMORY OF LOVE.

Jim Fergus divides his time between southern Arizona, northern Colorado, and France.

Find the author: Website | Blog | Goodreads

-CA

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