Illustrator: Walter Popp
Imprint or Line: Zebra Historical Romance
Book Series: Savage/ Gray Eagle #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Western Romance, Native American Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon
SPOILER ALERT ⚠
This review is of Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor. This is the first book in her Ecstasy/Gray Eagle series, which is known by two different names.
There’s a lot to unpack here in this Zebra Native American historical romance.
Part One of Savage Ecstasy
The year is 1776, and English expatriate Alisha Williams is 20 years old. Our heroine (who’s also the heroine of the first four books in the series), has journeyed west to find happiness with her only surviving relative, her uncle Thad.
One day, the “men” in her settlement bring a captured Oglala Lakota Indian brave into their camp. that brave is Gray Eagle, the “hero” of the book. Their treatment of him sets the stage for what follows. The whites emotionally and physically abuse Gray Eagle in the camp.
Only Alisha shows Gray Eagle kindness; his response to this is to bite her hand. (This is only the beginning of what he has in store for her over the course of the series.) Despite this, Gray Eagle and Alisha develop romantic feelings for each other.
Part Two of Savage Ecstasy
Gray Eagle, with the help of his best friend, White Arrow, escapes. Shortly thereafter, Gray Eagle, White Arrow, and a hundred of their fellow Oglala braves sack the fortress, killing most people in the camp. The only survivors include three men, and women Gray Eagle keeps alive because he has special plans for them and Alisha.
As the days go on, Alisha and Gray Eagle’s relationship takes the form it will take for the majority of the book and series. Sometimes, Gray Eagle treats Alisha with great emotional, mental, physical, and sexual cruelty. Other times, he’s kind and loving to her. Both people are conflicted with their emotions toward the other.
Sometime later, while the braves are away on a hunt, Alisha is “rescued” by the Army and taken to Fort Pierre. There Alisha meets two men who will affect both her and Gray Eagle’s lives. They are: Powchutu, a half-white, half-Lakota scout for the Army who becomes Alisha’s only friend at the fort. And there is Lieutenant Jeffrey Gordon.
Later, Gray Eagle and a few thousand of his closest friends show up at the fort. They demand Alisha be returned to him, or he and his braves will kill everyone inside. After a short deliberation, the Army decides to hand Alisha back over to Gray Eagle. This is also a tone-setting action for Alisha and Gray Eagle’s relationship and lives.
At her best, Ms. Taylor is right up there with Rosanne Bittner for writing evocative, lyrical novels. In many ways, Ms. Taylor’s writing in Savage Destiny fits that category. I felt as though I were with Alisha and Gray Eagle, watching their lives. The descriptions of Lakota culture show that this is a well-researched book.
The biggest downside of this book–and the books in the series he is in–is Gray Eagle. As mentioned above, Gray Eagle is extremely cruel to Alisha throughout the book. Ms. Taylor tries to defend/excuse/justify this behavior in the following ways (my paraphrasing):
- Alisha is white.
- She is Gray Eagle’s slave. She should be submissive to him.
- Because she is not submissive all the time, he has to treat her poorly. In other words, she made him do it.
- Lakota culture, tradition, and religion.
- He has to treat her poorly in order not to lose face with his people.
At the end of the book, Alisha blames herself for his abuse of her. None of these excuses hold water in my view. All of the above turn the “romance” between Alisha and Gray Eagle into a Stockholm Syndrome relationship.
The secondary characters–except for Gray Eagle’s best friend, White Arrow, who is also in love/lust with Alisha (as just about every male in the book ios)–are one-dimensional. The white characters hate Indians. The Indian characters hate whites.
As strong as Alisha is on many levels, she is extremely weak when it comes to her relationship with Gray Eagle, accepting and attempting to justify his abhorrent behavior. Although in the interest of fairness, Alisha has no money and no family to help her after her uncle, Thad, was killed in the raid on the fortress earlier.
Ms. Taylor’s love scenes are very flowery, with a lot of euphemistic expressions for sex rather than a nuts-and-bolts description of the act.
Plenty of emotional and physical violence. Assault and battery, attempted rape, actual rape, and torture are all featured here.
Bottom Line on Savage Ecstasy
I deleted an earlier review in order to reread the book to give this Native American romance a more nuanced review. On a lot of levels, Janelle Taylor‘s Savage Ecstasy is a very good book.
However, the deliberate, misogynistic violence–and the lame attempts to excuse it–bring the book down quite a bit in my eyes.
|Rating Report Card|
It was like lightning, the first time they looked into each other’s eyes: Gray Eagle, the captured Indian brave, and Alisha, the beautiful young settler. As the proud Oglala warrior was being tortured by his white captors, only Alsiha seemed to notice he was a human being – handsome and strong, and one who took her breath away.
But if Alisha could have read Gray Eagle’s thoughts she would have been even more disturbed…Because from the moment he saw her, the Indian knew he had to possess the fair-skinned one – and his life would not be complete until he had made her his slave!Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
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