Heart of the Hunter by Madeline Baker
Source: I read this story as part of the anthology, Enchanted Crossings
Kelly McBride is torn between two men—one an ex-con who she’s not sure she trusts, the other the spirit of an Indian who’s been dead for over a hundred years.
Lee Roan Horse and Blue Crow are men with two things in common—they’re both in love with Kelly and they both want the gold hidden on her ranch. When treasure hunters come searching for the gold, Lee and Blue Crow are determined to keep Kelly safe, even if it means they have to defy death to do it.
I have debated since finishing Heart of the Hunter if I should just wait and review this entire anthology as one, or share my thoughts on this one specific story. I finally decided to just go with my gut and here we are.
At the used book store I go to there are always boxes of these Native American romances. None which appear to be own voices but I understand this was sort of a craze once upon a time. Me, being curious, I have been intrigued but also pretty hesitant with reading one. I am very much in the mood for older romances at the moment, but I know the romance genre has a lot to answer for, when it comes to diversity and the way people have been portrayed.
When I came across this anthology however, and read the synopsis for Heart of the Hunter which is the only story out of this anthology with Native American characters, I didn’t get a bad vibe. Point blank, I didn’t want to read anything racist or disrespectful.
Kelly is a likeable character. She has inherited this ranch with mountains and a cave on it, which houses the remains of Blue Crow. Blue Crow was a Native American warrior who lost his life in a tussle with the friend of one of Kelly’s distant relatives. While signing paperwork and handling all the legalities to finally be able to 100% call the ranch home, Lee Roan Horse comes to her asking if he can purchase the ranch from her. Lee Roan Horse feels the ranch should be his, being the land belonged to his people. Initially though, all he sought was the gold in the cave which after all these years has been guarded by the spirit of Blue Crow.
One thing Madeline Baker does in this book that I was able to appreciate was her appropriately writing Lee Roan Horse, a Native American male in contemporary times and his struggle with opening up to Kelly. It doesn’t take long for the two to develop an attraction, but Lee Roan Horse has already been burned by a white woman before, so he plays it safe with Kelly. He really keeps their relationship about business. When he was younger, a white girl had a big crush on him. He turned her down and turned her down. Eventually he gave in and they were caught. She was Melinda, and when her father caught her and Lee Roan Horse, she cried rape. I honestly wouldn’t have expected this story line which I can only imagine had to have been the truth for so many men of color, to show up in this book, but I appreciated that it was there. It was a completely understandable reason behind why Lee kept his distance.
I really liked the paranormal element to this book. Blue Crow has been guarding the gold that was buried in the cave with his body for over a hundred years. Besides guarding the gold, once he meets Kelly, he realizes he has also spent all of this time waiting for her.
“I have waited for you my whole life, and now that I have found you, I know you can never be mine.”
Reading the scenes between Kelly and Blue Crow had me really thinking about the trope of star crossed lovers and how sometimes it seems almost impossible for two people who are meant to be together to actually be together. The attraction between Blue Crow and Kelly is so intense, and it’s almost intensified because of the fact that it can’t be.
“tears coursing down her cheeks because she’d fallen in love with the one man she couldn’t have, a man who wasn’t a man at all, but a ghost.”
For a while there is sort of a love triangle between Kelly, Lee Roan Horse and Blue Crow.
“Kelly frowned in confusion. She loved Blue Crow, not Lee, yet she felt the same desire for both men.”
There was something frustrating about Kelly’s “confusion.” There were scenes where she would be burning with desire for Lee, but things would back fire, he’d push her away and she’d run into the ghostly but solid arms of Blue Crow. At the same time, she is a grown woman and I am all for celebrating her choosing to do what she pleases with her sexuality.
There are some snakes behind the scene who are also out for the gold on Kelly’s land. Towards the end of this story, things really take some unexpected twists which I enjoyed. It added a different element and felt like a break from the back and forth of this “love triangle.”
The ending to this story is what I think really blew me away. It is a paranormal romance so I can totally see some people rolling their eyes at the ending but I am a complete sucker for it. This is the type of paranormal storyline I am seeking; one with characters defying boundaries of life and time to be with the person they are meant to spend their life with.