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by Kathy Reichs
Award Winning Books
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Native Americans

Literature as early as Shakespeare's "The Tempest" featured Native Americans. Shakespeare partially based his play on the essays of Montaigne, who praised Native American society as it was described by European explorers. Over the years, the European portrayal of Native Americans has ranged from "savage" to "sage," but always it reflected the profound ways in which Old World natives were changed by New World ones. Read on for a detailed foray into what the fascination has been about, and the resonance early Native American influence still has today.

What's The Appeal?

The Native American romance emphasizes instinct, creativity, freedom, and the longing to escape from the strictures of society to return to nature.

The 19th century Victorians increasingly looked down on mixed-blood or Native Americans because of pseudo-scientific theories of eugenics and misapplied social Darwinism. The "savages" mystified the strictly controlled Victorian society, who frowned upon their openly expressed sensuality and passion for life, nature, religion and artistry. This mystification caused Native Americans to be viewed as dangerous, wild and unpredictable. As a result, much of the era's fiction romanticized Native American characters—which paved the way for the popular Native American romances that flourish as a sub-genre in today's society.

Both men and women of the culture are represented in fiction as exotic figures, untamed and possessing a freedom to be admired and envied. Native American heroines frequently are depicted as earth mothers or seductresses and represent a connection to spiritual and sensual realities. while the heroes often symbolize the "shadow"—the imperfectly acknowledged part of the self that harbors darker desires.

Another common depiction of the Native American character in fiction is as a wise, all-knowing sage who dispenses wisdom by being connected to mysticism and spirituality.

The Native American romance hero or heroine, either historical or contemporary, brings readers all over the world in touch with distinctly American roots. These love stories encourage rejection of the past's errors and nourish respect for the natural world, for dream power, and for the surviving Native American cultures.

Authors' Thoughts...

Cassie Edwards:
"Romances show that American Indians weren't savages, but a misunderstood people who were in the way of the white man's progress—a side never shown in movies or written about in history books." Cassie suggests Shadows of the Indian by Raymond Stedman.

Kathleen Eagle:
"There's an idea that the plains Indians were the Knights of the Prairie. They were romanticized in much the same way the Knights of the Round Table were." Kathleen recommends research material—Mystic Warriors of the Plain by Thomas Mailes.

Colleen Faulkner:
"The 'captured' story is the ultimate fantasy. Someone you think is a danger can give you a better life than the one you had. It's also an adventure story. That's part of the appeal." Colleen keeps it in the family by suggesting mom Judith E. French's Sundancer's Woman.

Appearances of Native Americans in European and later European-American literature began as early as Shakespeare in portrayals that ranged from noble savage to eminent sage. Native American cultures have had a strong impact on Europeans and all immigrants to the U.S. These books offer a range of perspectives, tribes, nationalities, and characters, but they have one thing in common: a fascination with the varied peoples who occupied this land for thousands of years before the U.S.A. was created.

-Constance Martin


(Note: The list below was compiled at press time: Romantic Times Issue #188, November 1999)


  • CHEYENNE AMBER Catherine Anderson (Harper)
    Colorado Territory
  • COMANCHE MAGIC Catherine Anderson (Harper)
    1800s West
  • BLOSSOM Constance Bennett (Diamond Historical)
  • MOONSONG Constance Bennett (Diamond Historical)
  • COMES THE RAIN Beverley Bird (Avon)
    London-U.S. 1867
  • HEART'S SURRENDER Rosanne Bittner (Zebra)
  • SONG OF THE WOLF Rosanne Bittner (Zebra)
    West 1800s
  • NO OTHER MAN Shannon Drake (Avon)
    West 1875
  • SUNRISE SONG Kathleen Eagle (Avon)
    West 1933/1973
  • SAVAGE DANCE Cassie Edwards (Love Spell)
    Early West
  • CAPTIVE Colleen Faulkner (Kensington)
    1700s Maryland Territory
  • SONG OF THE WARRIOR Georgina Gentry (Zebra)
    1877 Northwest
  • CAPTIVE Heather Graham (Topaz)
    Florida 1837
  • DREAM CATCHER Kathleen Harrington (Avon)
    Dakota Territory, 1867
  • NIGHT FLAME Catherine Hart (Leisure)
    Post-Civil War Wyoming
  • NIGHT FLAME Catherine Hart (Leisure)
    1800s West
  • SILKEN SAVAGE Catherine Hart (Avon)
    Early West
  • APACHE FLAME Janis Reams Hudson (Zebra)
    Early West
  • BLAZE Susan Johnson (Berkley)
    Montana 1860s
  • SAVAGE THUNDER Johanna Lindsay (Avon)
    1800s Wyoming Territory
  • ONLY MINE Elizabeth Lowell (Avon)
    London/U.S. 1867
  • SUN WOMAN Lindsay McKenna (Harlequin)
  • DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST Vella Munn (Forge)
    Pacific Northwest
  • COMANCHE TEMPTATION Sara Orwig (Zebra)
    1867 West
  • TEMPTATIONS TRAIL Dana Ransom (Zebra)
    1800s Texas Plains
  • RIDE THE WIND Lucia St. Claire Robson (Ballantine)
    1840s Texas
  • WALK IN MY SOUL Lucia St. Claire Robson (Ballantine)
    1800s West
  • WRITTEN IN THE STARS Nan Ryan (Dell)
    Colorado Rockies
  • THE BELOVED WOMAN Deborah Smith (Bantam)
    1830s Trail of Tears
  • FORBIDDEN ECSTASY Janelle Taylor (Zebra)
    1800s West
  • CHASE THE WIND Janelle Taylor (Zebra)
    1800s West
  • FIRE BLOSSOM Cynthia Weight (Ballantine)
    Montana Territory


  • HIGH COUNTRY RANCHER Judith Bowen (SSE #851)
  • BLACK TREE MOON Kathleen Eagle (SIM #451)
  • REASON TO BELIEVE Kathleen Eagle (Avon)
  • FALCON'S FLIGHT Joan Hohl (SD #390)
  • WINDOW ON TODAY Joan Hohl (Leisure)
  • MACKENZIE'S MOUNTAIN Linda Howard (SIM #281)
  • FIRES OF PARADISE Brenda Joyce (Avon)
  • CHEROKEE THUNDER Rachel Lee (SIM #463)
  • OUTLAW Elizabeth Lowell (SD #624)
  • WARRIOR Elizabeth Lowell (SD #631)
  • HASTY WEDDING Debbie Macomber (SSE #9798)
  • DESPERADO Doreen Owens Malek (SD #260)
  • TALL CHIEF Dinah McCall (HarperCollins)
  • MYSTIC MOON Patricia Simpson (Harper)
  • RAVEN IN AMBER Patricia Simpson (Harper)
  • BLACKENING SONG Aimee & David Thurlo (Forge)
  • DEATHWALKER Aimee & David Thurlo (Forge)

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