Review of CRIMSON SKY by Gretchen Craig (see her blog)
After three years of drought, the fields are nearly bare and the storage areas empty with winter coming on. It would be a hard winter and spring even without the raiders, but they're hungry too--and smash their way into Zia's village while most of the men are out on a hunting expedition. It takes time to recover, but for Zia, there is only one choice--to go after the raiders and recover what little food they stole. Without it, she, and her baby, will starve. But can a small group of women overcome raiders who already defeated them and killed their sentries?
Raiders are active throughout the southwest, catching TapanAshka's hunting party and killing many of the men, and leaving TapanAshka badly wounded. He struggles to make it back to his wife, but Zia is convinced he was killed and that she'll have to make her own way forward. When floods destroy the spring planting, though, the tribe realizes that they face destruction once again. Only the Spanish, with their offer of food for work, provide a chance for survival. But Spanish Captain Diego Ortiz isn't interested in feeding Zia, he's interested in taking her into his bed.
Author Gretchen Craig (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Craig) shines a light onto a rarely explored part of history, the Spanish settlement of New Mexico during the 1500s. Craig creates interesting and multi-dimensional characters--Zia is heroic, yet sometimes unwilling to listen to those who know things she doesn't want to hear. Diego is strong and family-oriented, yet prone to violence and extreme jealousy. TapanAshka dallies when he should move forward, trying to create a perfect world when he should seek a possible one. Somehow, their flaws make them more sympathetic, more believable, and help make the story more interesting.
In some ways, CRIMSON SKY harkens back to historical romance of the 1970s, when history played a more important role, and when the formula was still being developed and not yet a straightjacket to writers. Craig tells an unusual romance, with a historical era outside the "approved" areas. It's an interesting experiment and it worked for me.
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