by Brenda K Jernigan

May 2002
ISBN: 0-8217-7061-6
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Set in the far west at the turn of the century, Dance on the Wind is a historical romance that brings the life of a pioneer alive. Brandy, an orphan, is in trouble. Father Brown, the priest who took care of the orphanage has died and she finds herself in charge of five children ranging in age three to fifteen. To make matters worse – the orphanage has no more money, and Brandy has to find a way to feed the children. Finding a job seems impossible in the dusty little town. She's about to give up, when she catches sight of an advertisement for a mail-order bride. The man in question is searching for a woman who can cook and is willing to travel to Fort Laramie to meet him. He's willing to pay all outstanding debts and pay for the trip.

Brandy figures this is the best way to resolve her problems, so she writes to the man, telling him her plight and says she'll meet him as soon as possible. True to his word, the man wires money to her – enough to pay the orphanage's debts and buy a wagon, oxen, horses and supplies. In that time, a small fortune.

Now Brandy has to learn to drive the wagon and find a wagon train to take her and the children west. The only wagon train going west that year won't take an unmarried woman (too much trouble). So she has to hire a guide. The only guide in town is a half-breed scout – Thunder. A tall, handsome devil with silver blue eyes and long, black hair. And a chip on his shoulder. He's actually a lawyer, but he left Boston after a disastrous love affair. (The woman in question was horrified to find out he was half Indian.)

He does not want to be Brandy's guide – he's mean, lean and has too many other things to do. But, he gets jailed after a gunfight over Brandy, and Brandy manages to get him out of prison – if he helps her. He gets his freedom – she gets her guide.

Of course, wild passion explodes between them – and they make love all the way along the trail. This – by the way – is the best part of the book. Ms. Jernigan has done her research, and the wagon and the trip are described in detail. Brandy and Thunder's passion for each other is not unexpected, Thunder has had his eye on her for some time, and their lovemaking is passionate. Brandy finds herself wondering if he'll break her heart and just walk away. Why doesn’t she talk to him? He knows she's another man's bride-to-be, but he could have bought her debt back. However, they don't talk, and he doesn't think about buying her debt back – and she goes to Fort Laramie.

But I had a hard time liking this book. For one, Brandy, as sweet and pretty and plucky as she is, comes off as simple-minded half the time. I mean – she's traveling to meet a man she's agreed to marry, he's paid a great deal of money for her, and she hits the sack with Thunder. Then, she feels a special bond with him – but never brings up a possible marriage. She never thinks she may get pregnant. For another thing, I don't want to ruin the ending – but she discovers she's been tricked and she ends up working as a maid in a whorehouse to pay the money back. Everyone around her is suddenly a crook or a criminal – Fort Laramie is made to sound like the den of iniquity and she can't get any help from anyone. Come on – the wild west may have been wild, but laws existed even back then! But Brandy gets out of the mess (Thunder is a lawyer, remember?) and all's well that ends well.

The characters are interesting, but I really wish that there were less stereotyping when it comes to romance novels sometimes. However, if you like stories about orphans, wagon trains and the wild west, you will enjoy Dance on the Wind.

Reviewed in August 2002 by Jennifer.

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