SPOILER ALERT ⚠
The Book – Dakota Flame
This review is of Dakota Flame, a standalone novel from July 1989 by Sonya T. Pelton. (Published by Zebra/Kensington).
Part 1: Savage Journey
Dakota Flame begins in Mankato, Minnesota, in December 1862. Thirty-eight Lakota braves are executed for their attack on a white settlement. Among them is a brave named Red Hawk.
Later, his spirit pouch ends up with Audrey Tina (Audrina) Harris, 20, the heroine of the book. Audrina has red hair, green eyes, and honey-gold skin. The reason Audrina receives the pouch: unbeknownst to her, Audrina is half-Lakota.
Soon after getting the pouch, Audrina is nearly raped by soldier Joe Powell. She is saved from this indignity by Wild Hawk, the hero of the book. Wild Hawk has black hair and bronzed skin. Wild Hawk is chief to his band of Lakota, and Red Hawk’s son.
He wants the pouch, and as time goes on, he also wants Audrina. Wild Hawk kidnaps Audrina, and later her Aunt Katherine and Sadie Peterson, another white woman, and takes them to his village. As they travel, Audrina begins developing romantic feelings for Wild Hawk, as he does for her.
The trip is not entirely pleasant; two other Lakotas, a brave, Left Hand, and his sister, Tawena, hate all whites and have evil plans for the white women.
Part II: Precious Fire
Not everyone will make it to Wild Hawk’s village. Katherine is killed by Left Hand. Later, Audrina and Wild Hawk become lovers. While this is going on, Sadie begins having romantic feelings toward Wild Hawk’s younger cousin, Fox Dreamer.
Part III: Savage Angel
As they make their way to Wild Hawk’s home village, Audrina finds herself in a dilemma: on the one hand, she’s falling in love with Wild Hawk; on the other, she wants to live a white person’s life. Meanwhile, Left Hand and Tawena have joined up with Powell to get Audrina and Sadie. Later, LeftHand rapes Sadie, and Powell semi-abducts Audrina (she went willingly with Powell after he lied to her about her father appearing).
Part IV: Lost Embrace
Upon learning of Audrina’s departure, Wild Hawk comes to the realization that he does, in fact, love her, and sets out to find her. Powell is killed, but this doesn’t free Audrina; instead, she becomes the captive of Left Hand.
In the end, the following things occur: Left Hand, Powell, and Tawena are all killed. Wild Hawk finds and rescues Audrina, they reconcile their differences and acknowledge that they love each other. Audrina does meet her father, Frank Harris, who is also half-Indian. Audrina and Wild Hawk have their Happily Ever After.
Dakota Flame is the best book I’ve read by Ms. Pelton so far (out of the 7 I’ve read. More on that later). Audrina is a fairly likable character. The love scenes are good for a mainstream historical romance novel from 1989.
Dakota Flame contains two tropes I really dislike, maybe to the point of hating. Those tropes are captor/captive and Simpering Sara.
Wild Hawk kidnaps Audrina, and during the course of the book, he is cruel at times to her. Despite this, Audrina is hot for his form and is willing to forgive his behavior toward her.
Although I liked Audrina, she is at times royally stupid, an example of this is her going with Powell, even though he nearly raped her earlier because he’s white. Audrina’s thinking-or not thinking: “Hey, he’s white. Even though he nearly raped me, he can be trusted because, you know, he’s white!”
She is also a bit whiny, spending much of the book yearning for the white world yet acknowledging she’s in love with a man who can’t live there. There is no character depth or development.
The book is told from the following perspectives: Audrina. Katherine. Powell. Sadie. Tawena. Left Hand. Who’s missing from this list? Wild Hawk. Only in the last third of the book does Ms. Pelton allows Wild Hawk to speak in his own voice and express his own thoughts. The books I like best are those where both the hero and heroine get equal or near equal time to do this.
As mentioned, the love scenes are quite good for a mainstream historical romance novel from 1989. The scenes in Dakota Flame don’t approach erotica, but they are on par with the love scenes from Cassie Edwards’ many Native American romances.
Assault, attempted rape, battery, and killings all take place here. The rape scene is mildly graphic.
Bottom Line on Dakota Flame
I mentioned earlier that Dakota Flame is my favorite book authored by Ms. Pelton. Considering that she has written such “classics” as Passion’s Paradise, that’s not exactly a high bar to get over. It is also a milestone, as Dakota Flame is the first book by Ms. Pelton to get more than a 2-star rating from me, but just barely.
Tropes: American Upper Midwest. Captor/captive. Half -Native-American Heroine. Historical Romance. Native American Hero.
Location: Mankato, Minnesota. South Dakota.
Time Frame: Late 1862-1863.
Because enchantingly lovely Audrina Harris knew that she was destined to play a major role in the tribal life of the Dakota people, it came as no surprise when Chief Wild Hawk rode into the Minnesota River Valley town and captured her, swinging her up behind him on his powerful black stallion.
Audrina felt the sharp stirring of rapture the moment her eyes met his, but the feisty, independent young beauty was determined not to be his captive. She would fulfill her destiny freely, or not at all. But the farther westward they traveled, the more she became a slave to Wild Hawk’s searing kisses and the sweet strength of his powerful bronze arms. And the more she realized how easy it would be to leave the white world behind for a lifetime of scorching love with her passionate Indian warrior.
BEGUILED INTO LOVE
Deeply saddened and angered by his father’s death at the white man’s hands, all Chief Wild Hawk wanted was to lead his tribe to peace and to obey the call of his dream vision: to capture the beautiful young girl who possessed the sacred talisman of the Dakota people. But Audrina Harris proved to be more than the paleface slave he’d bargained for. She had spirit and fire and a mind of her own–and the loveliest body he had ever seen.
When his lips first touched her luscious flesh, he knew that it was more than tribal destiny and a length of frayed rope that bound her to him. He knew he could not live without her warm breath in his ear, the fiery touch of her soft curves beneath his hands, and the raging passion that soon ignited into a fierce DAKOTA FLAME.DAKOTA FLAME by SONYA T. PELTON