This is the 2nd of the 46 Harlequin Series romances we are reviewing for a feature called The Romance Brown Bag Challenge. Jess bought a bag of random category romance at a library book sale and we plan to read and review every single one.
Time for me to go into the Romance Bag Challenge !
When Jess and I were going through the books we noted that out of 46 book we didn’t get any with people of color—well, we were wrong. Once A Rebel by Debbi Rawlins features half Navajo Cord Braddock. He’s an LA stunt man turned private investigator who is looking for the Winslow sisters, who mysteriously vanished out of thin air 18 months ago.
I was kind of nervous about a Native American protagonist because Romancelandia has this weird relationship with Arabs and Native Americans in particular, where they either get coded as white or become like exotic savages. I can’t judge how well Rawlins portrayed Cord’s Navajo identity but she does touch on some true facts about Native American life like the poverty on reservations, discrimination of Indians plus Cord uses the term Dine, which is what Navajo call themselves in their own language.
But then I realized Cord was going to travel back in time to the American West in 1878 to meet his heroine. So through some applied phelbotonium camera flash or something Cord travels through time and meets Maggie Dawson, a spinster homesteader who has been secretly living on her own since her father died. Cord basically forces her to take him in because she has that whole Christian duty thing or whatever. . . and they eventually have a romance. But here’s the thing….
Maggie’s super racist. Like literally racist. She like calls him a savage and is surprised by how he smells good etc. Which, I guess fits into the time and obviously she gets over her preconceived notions but what was the most cringey to me was just how permissive Cord was of the racism. There were a couple of paragraphs like this:
[Cord] sighed telling himself it was useless to get angry. For all [Maggie] knew he streaked his face with war paint, stuck feathers in his hair and took scalps when the urge struck. He couldn’t fault her for the beliefs of the time. Well-found beliefs at that. He wasn’t ignorant of ancient tribal atrocities, regardless of what he thought the white man deserved. He grunted to himself. White blood flowed through his veins as well.
Just thinking of that accusing look on her face earlier mad his stomach churn. Man, he had to quit being so touchy. The threat of Indian attacks was real during this time period. These people had just gotten over Custer and his men wiped out and whether they deserved it or not it wasn’t the point.
So…just to clarify on that last one; this refers to the Battle of Little Bighorn in the Sioux Wars…. a war started when Americans decided to encroach on Indians land to get to the gold. It wasn’t an Indian attack, it was a battle. I’m just not sure I believe that someone who grew up on a reservation would sympathize with the people who started it.
This book is the third book in the Stolen from Time miniseries, the first two being about the mysteriously vanishing Winslow sisters. If I’m ever at a used bookstore I’ll have to keep an eye out for the last book, Lone Star Lover—which for whatever reason eschews the ‘Once A…’ naming conventions—just have to know if these people ever come back to modern times.
I just don’t get how super chill they all seem to be living in the 1870s with their new spouses. It’s just like–good luck not dying of tuberculosis. I mean if you get stuck in the past what is your responsibility ? Do you stop World War I ? Kill Hitler’s dad ? I just don’t find time travel like this fun, I find it completely terrifying.
To wrap up, on it’s own the story isn’t that bad. In fact I like how strong of a character Maggie was, but when you take into consideration some of the problematic material I can’t give this more than a 2.5 star.
The back cover is the worst. If I had actually read it, I would not have picked up this book. It claims Cord shuns his ancestry when really he left the reservation because his grandmother died…also there is a typo in here. It calls him a twentieth century hunk when this book clearly takes place in the 2000s.
Time travel has done its uncanny work once again. Folks best be watchin’ out for stuntman-turned-private-eye Cord Braddock–a tall, gorgeous fella with a touch of Navajo blood. He’s spent his entire life shunning his ancestral beliefs and fighting his way into the world–until he finds a strange old camera in an attic…
Now he’s a sexy twentieth-century hunk stuck in 1878 and Maggie Dawson can’t get enough of the stranger. He’s exciting. He’s exotically dangerous. And he makes her want to do the most unladylike things! Is this about to be Maggie’s last stand?