Sun Woman, a Harlequin Historical by Lindsay McKenna, features a wonderful Native American heroine and an equally excellent American soldier who come together despite a world that seems determined to keep them apart.
Illustrator: Max Ginsburg
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Historical #71
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Historical Romance, Native American Romance, Western Romance
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
MILD SPOILERS 😉
Lindsay McKenna’s Native American ancestry prompted her to write sensitively crafted historical romances about couples who endured numerous challenges before finding happiness. Her 1991 Harlequin Historical Sun Woman is a fine example of her thoughtful writing.
Sun Woman takes place in Arizona in 1885 during Geronimo’s last days as he seeks sanctuary for his Apache people.
Kuchana, The Woman of the Waters
“Today is a good day to die,” Kuchana says after her sister’s 4-year-old daughter dies of starvation. One of the few female warriors of her Chiricahua tribe, she is essential as a much-needed animal tracker. But now that she has only one living blood relative—her sister—Kuchana fears that her people will all die soon if nothing is done to stop it.
Even though her sister begs her not to, Kuchana decides to reach out to the American Army. She will work as a tracker with them, for it would be better for the Apache to be alive on a reservation that is constantly on the run, dying off slowly. However, this action will mark her as a traitor, and the Chricahua will consider her dead to them.
Sergeant Gibson McCoy
Gibson McCoy is a quiet cavalry Sargeant with a scandal-filled past. Rumors abound that he had an affair with a superior’s officer’s wife, thus earning him a reduction in rank and an exile to a distant outpost in the West as punishment.
He is different from all the men at the fort. Gib respects the black enlisted soldiers and their washerwomen wives who accompany the Army. But as far as the officer’s wives go, he keeps himself at a respectful distance. This is not because he was guilty of anything in the past but because Melissa Polk, the Commander’s wife, has been making aggressive passes at him.
Kuchana arrives at the American fort, and she encounters Gib McCoy. While another soldier would like to shoot her onsight, Gib restrains him. She is emaciated, weak, and starving. Even so, she sits proudly on her horse, carrying herself with a grace Gib has never seen before in a woman.
He believes her offers to help the Army track down Geronimo are sincere.
Gib sees to it that she is fed and cared for. While the officers’ wives treat Kuchana with unhidden disdain, she is able to make some friends among the washerwomen.
Gib is drawn to Kuchana, not merely because she is a beautiful woman but for the noble qualities inherent in her. In turn, Kuchana admires the gentle blue-eyed soldier who treats her with respect and kindness.
Falling in Love Despite Many Obstacles
Watching Kuchana and Gib come together was such a lovely experience. Yes, there was a physical attraction on both their parts. But they were drawn to each other on a much deeper level, with tenderness and mutual respect forming the basis of their relationship.
Still, Kuchana is wary of a relationship with Gib, seeing it as a betrayal of her people.
The officers’ wives do their worst to make Kuchana miserable. Even so, she meets their attempts at humiliation with dignity–which they cannot take away from her. Meanwhile, Gib also has enemies, as several officers despise him and would do anything to see him destroyed.
After another Apache scout attempts to kill Kuchana and is saved by Gib, Captain Carter–who happens to be Melissa Polk’s lover–has him arrested for disobeying orders. Thus, Gib is dishonorably discharged from the Army and must leave Kuchana behind.
Fortunately, Gib purchased some land not too far away where he had built a cabin. He toils the lands and does his best to make the house a home.
Two People Together As One
Commander Polk sends Kuchana to find Gib, and when she does, she is surprised to see him so hard at work. He tells her he intends to breed horses to sell to the Army…And to make the cabin their marital home. No matter the obstacles in their way, Gib has faith that they will be together.
He tells her:
“I dream of finding a preacher to marry us just as soon as Geronimo goes back to the reservation…Then you and I are going to start our lives as husband and wife.
“I dream of you carrying strapping sons and beautiful daughters in your belly. Sometimes when I’m up late, I can hear their laughter, and I see you smiling…
“I dream of being a successful horse rancher and our children around us, learning to be at peace with the earth and the people, no matter what the color of their skin.
“Someday when we’re old and gray, we’ll sit out n the porch with our rocking chairs, remembering the good times and the bad. But most of all, we’ll remember the love we hold for each other.”
Kuchana is ultimately able to convince Geronimo to go to the reservation to be with his people.
Gib and Kuchana do get to live the life they dreamed of, but only after a series of shocking events before the book concludes.
Steam Factor: Warm
There are two sexual encounters in Sun Woman. While the mechanics are described, the scenes focus more on the emotional and spiritual connection between Kuchana and Gib. I’d rank them as warm. They qualify as lovemaking, not mere sex.
Final Analysis of Sun Woman
I read Sun Waman twice, first in 1991 when I subscribed to the Harlequin Historical line and then thirty years later. Both times I was so impressed by Lindsay McKenna’s beautiful writing and dense characterization.
Kuchana is a woman of indomitable fortitude, tackling hardship after hardship with grace. With his gentle strength and quiet manner, Gib is the perfect partner for her.
No, life will not be easy for them; the world will not let it be. Although there’s no doubt that Gib and Kuchana will meet every obstacle with courage, and in the end, their love will always win.
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BRANDED A TRAITOR…
Desperate to save the last of her family, Kuchana had become a scout for the
army. To the young Apache, the return of her people to the reservation seemed the only way to ensure their continued survival. Her chosen path was not an easy one, but the promise of a future with Gib McCoy gave her the will to complete her journey.
Lieutenant Gib McCoy had known his share of women, but the pampered eastern ladies of his past paled next to Kuchana’s ethereal beauty. Her courage drew him to her like a moth to the flame. He could not protect her from the jealousy and prejudice that surrounded them, but he knew he would not rest until she was in his arms forever.SUN WOMAN BY LINDSAY McKENNA