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In this age of fast cars, faster planes and instant gratification, itís easy to forget the hardships our ancestors went through as they traveled to the west. Compound those hardships a hundred-fold by making the trip a forced march from a cherished homeland in the eastern mountains to the flat, seemingly barren plains of Oklahoma, and you have The Trail of Tears, endured by the Cherokee Indians. This unlikely setting provides the backdrop for romance in Karen Troxelís Wind of Change.
Hiawatha Craft was near Fort Smith, Arkansas on his way home from helping a friend move to Tennessee, when his car broke down. In his way, he had followed the very trail that his ancestors took west more than one hundred years before. Heís a former Marine, tough and strong, not one to believe in the supernatural. Nor one to dwell on his heritage. While his car is being worked on, he wanders into an old junk shop where he sees an aged, yellowed photo of a woman and a child. They look familiar, but he doesnít know why.
When he leaves, his car once again stalls, forcing him to walk back into town. Just his luck, a storm approaches and a tornado touches down, almost on top of Hiawatha. When he rises out of the ditch and brushes himself off, his car is gone, as is the very highway he was traveling. As he walks in the direction he thinks he'll find town, he comes on wagons and Indians, accompanied by men in blue military uniforms. First thinking that this is a re-enactment of some kind, Hi tries to make conversation. But he quickly discovers that something is very much amiss here.
Valerie Redhook, daughter of the leader of the band and a tribal member who wants to be chief herself at some point, is tasked with finding a place for Hi. She finds him clothing and takes him under the wing of her family, but she doesnít trust him. What Cherokee doesnít know his own language or customs?
Hiís goal, finding another tornado in hopes it would take him forward to his own time, changes gradually to helping the tribe get settled. Knowing the future that awaits his new friends adds to his sense of responsibility. It doesnít hurt that each day he feels increasing tenderness for Valerie. What happens to the young lovers might surprise you.
I enjoyed this book. Ms. Troxel is a good writer and she describes the travails of the Indians without being depressing. Hi seems to accept his time travel with aplomb, and adapts quickly to his environment. Valerie is characterized well as a somewhat flighty young woman, who nonetheless tries hard to fulfill all of her potential. Hi is a good match for her. There isnít a great deal of historical background given, and itís not necessary. Wind of Change is a nice romance, all on its own.