Native American romance novels, or historical romance novels, have been around for a while now. Typically, they are trade paperbacks with brawny, half-breed “braves” posed in various compromising positions with scantily clad white women with fiery-red tresses. Think of a twentieth-century Fabio in a seventeenth-century loin cloth. The “braves,” direct from central casting, appear out of the covers like preferred members of Gold’s Gym On the Prairie replete with glistening pecs and rippling, savage six-packs. They look like they could lift a buffalo. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Because devotees of “buckskin” romances want to be lifted, they want to be carried away! And the girth of the “brave’s”…um…arms, is in direct proportion to the sizzling force of the narrative. Or so the cover art leads us to believe.
The biggest offender of buckskin-style romances are the Savage historical novels. The series sells worldwide to millions of fans. The book titles include Savage Heat, Savage Moon, Savage Wonder, Savage Passions, Savage Spirit, Savage Thunder, Savage Hawk, Savage Illusion, Savage Stomach Indigestion, Much? Well, you get the point. The author has cornered the market and, if it’s got “savage” in the title, you know who probably wrote it.
Just for fun, I’ll pick up one of these books and skim to a particularly steamy scene, and mentally replace the sexually objectified “half-breed” hero with that of a palomino stallion. Because that is the way the authors of these books draw their characters: as wild, “savage” beasts. If any of the genre’s readers ever talked to an actual Native person, or set foot in any actual Native community, they might be in for a shock. Because the reality of actual Natives’ lives is in sharp contrast to the lives presented in these books.
So, to help reconcile this, and help clear up any malignant distortions, I decided to create some contemporary literary scenes straight from the annals of what I imagine to be a more realistic portrayal – albeit fictional version – of Native American Romance.
Skinny Jeans and All
Janelle Jon-Jon Fast Elk got up off the couch and drove to the mall to buy light bulbs and a rotisserie chicken. But dark storms were brewing. Her check card wouldn’t work. So she tried calling the bank but her cell phone had run out of minutes! In a cruel twist of fate she had to drive home again! But her car stalled out in the middle of an intersection! A harrowing saga replete with breathtaking vistas and romantic intrigue. Along the way, Janelle meets a tall, ashen-haired stranger wearing suspenders and an ironic mustache. She’s been warned by her elders not to date hipsters but the tall stranger’s mischievous eyes lure her heart to him – skinny jeans and all.
Danny’s all bad boy, a citified, urban skin who’s into hip hop and always organizing Free Leonard Peltier rallies. But that all changed when the super tradish, old school Sandy came into his life! Sandy can talk to coyotes like Dr. Doolittle, so sweet she could rot your teeth just being in the same room. She runs the elder program on the rez. Can their love survive?
As long as Petunia Snodgrass could remember, she’s been haunted by unbidden images of a Comanche warrior called Stands-with-a-Stiffy. Until one fateful day her curiosity about the strange dream is forever quenched. Who would have thought she’d discover the reincarnation of her one true love at the nearby tribal casino. And who would ever have imagined that her forevermore love would be in the form of a slot machines assistant manager who drove a Celica hatchback!
Ever since Nancy Medicine Deer could remember she always wanted to be a registered nurse. But was that enough? Why stop there when she could be a M.D.? But how would she ever pay for tuition and cover her bills at the same time? The answer to her dilemma soon arrives in the form of the beguiling modern day snake oil salesman, Damien Keefe, who recruits naïve Nancy into his Native American Spiritual Retreat Seminars. For $1000, participants are given sacred instructions for cleansing. Nancy suspects something strange when Damien introduces her to the first rite, which involves a brush, ammonia and the dashing Damien’s kitchen floor.
Crow Fair Sunrise
It is fiery red-tressed Madison Monroe’s first visit to the infamous Crow Fair in Indian Country and she could scarcely believe her emerald-green eyes. She mistakenly assumed there would be carnival rides and initially is disappointed but soon discovers a different and better kind of ride she never would have anticipated! When raven-haired Napoleon Pretty Bird saunters up to Madison and roguishly inquires if she would like to wojapi his pemmican, what else can a girl do? When in Rome!
Per Caps in Paradise
“It’s so hard to find a decent parfleche bag to match my Jeep Wrangler,” photojournalist Trioux Lautrec laments. “A girl’s got to hunt and gather, after all.” Meet Trioux, the sassy incarnation of Sacajawea and Calamity Jane. Meet her trusty sidekick, Sunka Was’te, her loyal, three-legged German shepherd. While scouting for pictorials on the Fort Bantz Reservation, Trioux encounters the dazzling Zola fancydancing to a lame remix of Purple Rain at the local Watering Hole. It’s not long before the two girls start inventing some dance steps all their own with surprising and sizzling results!
Dances with Werewolves
Legends prevail darkly along the Wishawah Coast Indian Reservation and the locals warn visitors against traversing the forest and beaches after dark, especially during nights of the full moon. So when Abigail House’s defiant nature sets into motion a series of supernatural events, the inhabitants of Wishawah and all of the future is threatened. That is unless the reclusive Wolf Clan led by the mysterious Julian Ross can lay claim to Abigail’s soul before the terrifying spirits are released.
Thelma Two-Moccasins thought her life held no more surprises until her grandson Tiger hooked up a computer and Wifi in her small apartment at the Tribal Assisted Living Center. Soon she was surfing the web like a boss. And when a kindly instant message popped up with the screen name YogiBare4U, Thelma’s fate was about to turn a sharp corner. But would she accept destiny’s offer?