Lakota Dreaming came to my attention via Courtney Milan, who knew I was looking for working class / interracial titles. Overall, it was a solid recommendation and a book you should read. Zora is a successful fashion editor in NYC who frequently dreams about her ancestor, a former slave. Zora’s psychiatrist (a proponent of genetic memory) urges her to visit the family’s South Dakota home. There she meets John Iron Hawk, head of an understaffed police department, trying to balance his duties to the people with his family responsibilities.
Zora is a fish out of water, but a very capable one. She’s used to a certain level of comfort in New York. While I found the depiction of rural poverty realistic for a Southern environment I don’t know enough about the Sioux reservation to pass judgement in it’s accuracy. Overall, Gillam steers clear of depicting Lakota life in stereotypical ways. There are characters with alcohol problems and one use of the word savage (in a historical context) but by and large Lakota Dreaming is a conventional contemporary romance. The class conflict was less between Zora and John and more between reader expectation and the book. The lightly paranormal elements worked as Zora’s motivation. Her fear that John would (rightly) peg her as unstable appropriately addressed the left field nature of her quest.
Lakota Dreaming could easily be a longer book. The story of Zora’s ancestor is kept to brief flashes from her dreams or other character’s visions. I needed more context on the past to understand why some in the future were so threatened by Zora’s arrival. 150 years is a long enough span of time that most secrets revealed are merely curiosity. By the time the reader gets why Zora’s quest is dangerous the story is over. It’s a shame because it’s been a long time since I enjoyed a contemporary romance as much as I enjoyed the first half of Lakota Dreaming.
The final section has too much sudden peril and not enough carefully laid reward. The villain becomes a cartoon, rather than an ominous force. The city-smart Zora asks too few questions, lulled as she is into believing she’s safe in these unfamiliar surroundings. As well, there was too little discussion between John and Zora about what her life would look like if she stayed in South Dakota. Her career would effectively be over. As a reader I wasn’t sure what that would mean for her future or them as a couple. These are minor issues in what is largely a contemporary romance well worth seeking out.View Spoiler »My WTF moment was during a climactic struggle at the end of the book. The villain has to do the Let Me Explain It Speech which leads to an all out struggle to the death. At one point Zora is slapped awake so the villain can keep choking her. Gillam totally lost me here. While this allows her to keep having Zora narrate the action – who does that? What expedient killer wants the victim aware and potentially able to save themselves? It was a piece of WTF in a section of WTF that ended the book on the wrong note « Hide Spoiler
*This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.