Emma Davis became Little Dove when she as a ten years old she was adopted by the local Cheyenne tribe. The Chief, Standing Bear, became a surrogate father to her and she grew up alongside his son, Deer Shadow. When Little Dove reached adulthood however the Chief arranged a marriage between her and Deer Shadow. Little Dove has only sisterly feelings for Deer Shadow and she knows she will never grow to love him, the way a wife should her husband
Before Deer Shadow was a loving and protective ‘brother,’ as a fiancé he is cold and controlling.
Deer Shadow’s cruelty can be explained simply, he was humiliated by Little Dove’s refusal to marry him, and clearly he’s in love with her. It must have been crushing to find that the person you love doesn’t feel the same way. Moreover that she is so obviously against the idea of marrying you that she has attempted repeatedly to run away. With the eyes of everyone in the tribe watching, his behaviour while inexcusable makes perfect sense.
Emma shows both courage and ingenuity when she assumes the identity of Margaret Bridelson, and uses that as a path back into the White world.
When she meets Seb Bradford she feels things that she never felt for Deer Shadow or any other man. Seb is handsome, gently flirtatious and makes his attraction to her plain. But after reading Margaret’s journal, Emma has to behave and react to him in the way that while is alien to her is how gently reared ladies like Margaret would behave.
I can understand that Emma has no where to go to after leaving the tribe, but after running away from one arranged marriage, why would she rush off into another?
The real Margaret Bridlson was destined to marry an important man in town to pay off her father’s gambling debts. Assuming Margaret’s identity meant that Emma would have to marry a stranger. This stranger turns out to be Seb’s father, Edward Bradford. Emma’s intended as well as being considerably older than Emma foresaw, is a proud man who seems overly impressed with himself and his money. He is verbally and physically abusive to his sons – Seb and his younger brother Nathaniel. Ignores his daughter because she had the temerity to marry a half Indian, and expects everyone to kowtow to him by virtue of his importance.
Edward Bradford makes it plain that he is angry that his oldest son is not involved in the family business and ridicules his younger son’s love of reading.
He is such a horrible person that his personality verges on caricature. When Edward finds that Margaret is not the plain spinster he expected but a lovely young woman he is eager to marry as soon as possible.
Seb finds himself falling in love with his soon to be step mother and is increasingly intrigued by how different she is from what he expected. He knows he should stay away from her but he can’t help making excuses to be in her company. Emma loves everything about the town, except her soon to be husband. His constant boasting about his wealth and cutting remarks to everyone around him, reveal a bitter and unhappy individual.
As the time moves closer to her wedding to Edward, Emma finds herself more in love with his son and anxious about how she can extract herself from her entanglements. She assumed that Edward is a widower and finds that his first wife is alive and ‘exiled’ from her children in another state. The word divorce is never mentioned in the book, and strangely though divorce at that time would have been shocking and not at all socially acceptable. It seems that Edward’s money has kept even the gossips quiet, about his first wife’s leaving town.
When Edward is seriously injured Emma suggests that the key to his recovery is to bring his former wife Catherine back home. She hopes that a reconciliation would allow Edward to make amends for his behaviour, both past and present and also offer the chance for her to have a future as ‘Emma’ with Seb.
This is an engrossing and entertaining western. I enjoyed all the characters especially the ‘sweet talking’ Seb.
At age 12, Emma Davis loses her loving family when her father is killed in a farming accident. After her mother dies, a friendly Indian tribe takes her in, raising her as their own; they name her Little Dove. A decade later, the chief insists she marry his son, a brave she considers to be her brother. Escaping before her tribal ceremony, Little Dove comes across a stagecoach that has been attacked. All appear to be dead. After discovering a journal, she takes on Margaret Bridalson’s past, present and future as described in the journal. She is nearly taken off course by a handsome and kind trail guide, Seb Bradford. Resistance must prevail when they discover Margaret’s betrothed is Seb’s father. Will her new beginnings bring her happiness or will she lose everything including the man she loves and a life she has yearned to live?