My reviews are honest & they contain spoilers. For more, visit:
I’ve become a fan of Deborah Camp’s writing since I read Solitary Horseman. She’s one of my go-to authors when I think of western historical and rightly so, cause her stories are generally engaging with hot heroes and adorable heroines. But this new series that I’ve recently started titled Tough Man/Too Tough, I have a very mixed feelings about book 1, Too Tough to Tame.
This series and it’s installments were first published in the mid 90s and it showed some of that dated scenario where things are sometimes rather over the top and you just have to come to terms with that it wasn’t written for the more contemporary readers. I’m not saying Too Tough to Tame is a typical bodice ripper. It’s not, because there are only a few murders and no rape at all (well nothing that actually happened in the story). Violence is very limited. In fact, the author’s writing is pretty good so it shows a consistency of her brilliance where her writing is concerned. But those over the top moments sometimes made things too cheesy for me. I don’t even know if it makes any sense but I laughed and eyerolled quite a bit at their gestures, banters and thought seesh how silly!.
But on the brighter side, I don’t remember about reading a hero with Native American heritage—not for quite a while at least—which was a breath of fresh air, a change of scenario for me.
Tess Summers lives in the town of False Hope, Montana which is rather closer to the Native American territory. The Blackfeet have always clashed with the local people for various reasons and the situation can be very tense at times. There were mention of other tribes but they seemed to be the prominent ones in this story. Maybe because our H is one of them. :) Now Tess is a spinster, though not without her own secret dreams and wishes. But in this backwater town, the type of men she daydreams about are hard to come by. She lives with his brother, John, who is the sole doctor of the town. She’s more like his helper; nurse and everything else that he might need when he’s working from patient to patient. He’s recently married but his wife is a showpiece rather than anyone practical, so Tess even had to work as their housemaid i.e., cooking, cleaning etc. Anything you can think of.
To say that Tess was unhappy was an understatement. She wanted to become more independent, be acknowledged for her contribution in her brother’s work and I saw nothing wrong in it. After all she’d also unofficially trained with him so she can assist, though John rarely acknowledged her contribution taking it all for himself. She also wanted to marry and have her own family to a man she can love and admire. The latter she’d almost given up hope for but she sure as hell didn’t want to live her life as a maid to John and Camilla, then later the governess-aunt when they have kids! So Tess had been trying to find a way to strike out independently knowing John will never approve of her decision. So far, she had no opportunity. But then it arrives as a Blackfeet warrior, when she’s kidnapped by one of his tribe members to take care of him. He was wounded and dying from a bullet wound.
Tess has had met Indians before but she wasn’t of a mind like the most around town; looking down at them and treating them as nothing but savages. It seemed she’d always been intrigued by them. One day, a young Indian girl is brought to John, heavily bleeding from a gunshot wound. The girl knew she’d die, so before her last breath she accuses a Marshall in the town for shooting her in cold blood. As she was confiding to Tess, she also made certain Tess promised to take care of her brother who had also been shot and needs medical attention ASAP. She even mentions the name of a place where he always goes when he’s in trouble. Tess couldn’t identify the area so when the girl’s family arrives to receive the dead body, Tess informs one of the men privately what she’d been told. If only she knew it’d dump her into a whole new world of trouble, as well as launch her into the most terrific adventure of her life! Oh boy!!
The man, Brown Otter, kidnaps Tess the next day when she was visiting a patient. Tess was terrified not knowing what was happening and why this man would do this to her. Then it all becomes clear when she’s taken to a mountainside hideaway and finds her ‘new’ patient quite badly injured even if he won’t let her touch him or check for his wounds. So far, I thought Tess was smart and practical, after seeing and doing what she had as a nurse. However, the moment she clapped her eyes on Storm In His Eyes, her thought process turned... I don’t know, silly? She was directly checking him out, how big and muscular and strong he was and how manly and virile he was as he lay wounded on the floor. Seesh girl! The practical Tess disappeared that day and never returned in the book, most especially anytime she was around or with Storm In His Eyes. -_-
From Brown Otter and Storm In His Eyes AKA Storm, Tess hears what happened, though she still had a difficult time believing that about the Marshall. It seemed Storm got entangled with his daughter which resulted into the Indian-hating Marshall shooting them both. Either way, Tess against all her misgivings decides to take care of Storm. She lives in the cave with him for a few days until Brown Otter returned with their elderly healer woman Minipoka. Even though Storm was doing much better than before, he needed to be taken to their camp. I was laughing when Tess was stomping her feet—something she did many times over in the story— thinking no one is again giving her credit for saving Storm’s life, as they decided that his healing would be handed over to Minipoka. But after meeting the healer woman she’s impressed by her tactics and becomes ever curious to learn more of the Native ways of healing. By then Tess was so enamored of Storm’s manly aura that she was unwilling to go back to her old life. But fate would have it that after an incident she’s forced to be taken to the Blackfeet camp after all.
Storm had moved with the Whites for a good part of his life when he wanted to explore the world outside of his tribe. He had white blood in him, his own grandmother being a white woman. And his gift (or curse however you see it) was having a pair of stormy grey eyes which became his namesake and instantly marked him as someone who was neither here nor there. He had trouble fitting into both worlds; something that had also shaped his life thus far. He never felt at peace with the Whites so he returned to his tribe for good. Later we come to learn that he’d always been enamored more of white women than his own kind, which had gotten him more than once into trouble. Though he swore off white women after the latest debacle, once again, when he sees Tess and he’s in lust, even in the middle of a raging fever and pain through his body from the gunshot wound. He calls her his ‘AnadaAki’ which literally means Pretty Woman (Tess had blonde hair and blue eyes). Yet somewhere in this fever-torn mind he knew it’s not good news. He knew it when he was feeling a bit better but he was still so in lust with Tess that he didn’t know how he can stay away. But that’s what he must do because he’s a wanted criminal for crimes he had not committed. There were some men terrorizing the people around here masked as Indians and the Blackfeet knew it wasn’t their men but Storm and Brown Otter, his cousin, were getting the blame. Storm knew he had a lot to do and he didn’t have the time or luxury to complicate things with a white woman again. But when Tess is attacked by those a$$holes, she was saved by Storm and taken to their camp for recovery. With that their fate was kind of sealed TBH.
In the Blackfeet camp, the few days she lived there recuperating, Tess learns quite a bit about them. She learns their ways of living, becoming envious of how they treasured and respected their women; something Tess never felt living with her own community. She also gets more and more entangled with Storm, but learns he maybe betrothed in the Indian way to one of the Blackfeet women. Mind you guys, it’s only been a few days and though they’ve been through quite a lot, I couldn’t see them already in love. But lust, oh sure! They both ‘the itch’ for one another. Tess thought finally she found a man she could love and create a family with, yet he’s so out of reach. Maybe that feel of the forbidden and Storm’s mixed heritage was the aphrodisiac for her I don’t know but I wasn’t convinced either of them was in love.
In the meantime, the tribal elders wanted Storm to decide on his own fate by engaging in one of their rituals. And in that dark room where he’s send to contemplate (kind of a solitary confinement though not as severe), through visions, Storm becomes somewhat assured that his life is entwined with Tess. Yet, he was one of the chosen ones for future leadership and their current leader wanted Storm to marry inside the tribe to take his ‘sits beside him’ AKA the main wife (it’d seem they had a penchant for polygamy, something I neither like nor support). But Storm, it seemed, had no interest in taking multiple wives or even a wife among the Blackfeet women, even if his semi-betrothed has been trying to seduce him since he’s been back. He decides to let her go so she doesn’t waste her life away. Storm more pressing business he needed to take care of; had a revenge to plan. But what of Tess? Storm was very insecure about that bit of his life. The future seemed very uncertain for them both and he couldn’t make any decisions.
Meanwhile, as Tess healed completely, she was becoming disappointed and rather heartbroken that Storm won’t say anything or act upon on their gradually burning attraction. They’ve kissed and such but he doesn’t look like someone who’d commit. Then again, can they even marry when it seemed the world is against them becoming a couple? She’d made good friends among the Blackfeet including approval from Minipoka, who held the highest of regards among the tribe members. But even the older women seemed reluctant to bless their match. But, despite all the odds, she and Storm decides to become lovers. TBH even I wasn’t sure where this was going seeing how fast things were moving for them. But I read on...
Despite her wishes to remain with the Blackfeet, Tess had to return to the reality of her life. Storm insisted she goes back, another thing that Tess doesn’t take lightly. And she knew that the words of her being with the Blackfeet would ruin her reputation. Which it does of course. But it also gives her the perfect opportunity to move out of John’s house who BTW wasn’t at all happy at the turn of things. Tess knew she may or may not see Storm again as he won’t commit to anything before he can take care of his business with the Marshall. Avenge his sister and make life safer again. But that wasn’t any consolation for Tess because she wanted only Storm. And the path to their courtship would be fraught with even more danger when she’s also targeted by the miscreants for being an ‘Indian lover’.
The last chapters had a lot of actions to keep one hooked. However, Tess was also being... uh, herself. At one point she makes it easier for their enemies to abduct her. Who goes out alone in the night ‘to get a bit of air’ KNOWING there’s danger out there? Only our Tess. Even when Storm specifically told her to be inside her uncle’s ranch where they were at that moment. *SMH* I even was saying ‘no, no don’t go out there alone!’ while I read that scene cause I knew what exactly can happen. -_- In the end I decided Tess was a lost cause. She’d always be a little dimwit and Storm a little oaf-ish. He wasn’t bad, just not the brightest bulb in the bunch, especially where women were concerned. And he was always horny. *facepalm* I’m not even going into the cheesy moments between him and Tess. It’s just that I found the writing entertaining and engaging which kept me going till the end.
In the end, to me, one of the best moments in Too Tough to Tame was probably Storm and his tribe’s gesture to request for Tess’s hand in marriage to John. I loooved it! It was a phenomenal gesture in front of the whole town and Tess deserved it after suffering months of heartache, no thanks to Storm who was always uncertain about their match. It was about time! That’s one scene where I was grinning like a fool, because by then I gave in and thought they deserved one-another.
Overall, I liked the story but that’s about it. But I’d suggest giving it a try for what bugged me may not bug you at all. 3.5 stars.