Indian Summer, by Dellani Oakes, is a story that would appeal to the younger romance readers. It draws the reader into a world of the past that is not much different emotionally to the world of today. The suspense of the events surrounding the heroine draws you on through a plot that is not over-complicated and is an easy read.
Our story is set in the town of St. Augustine, Florida, which is under attack by the British.
It begins on February 15, 1739. Our heroine Gabriella Deza is a young girl of the tender age of fourteen. She is just coming into age where her mind and heart become awhirl with thoughts of boys and men instead of more childish pastimes.
As Gabriella is approaching her fifteenth birthday, and her big coming of age party, she becomes increasingly intrigued with her older sisters’ interests in men and marriage.
She soon begins to experience the first tingling of sexual attraction and the whirlwind emotions of an adolescent girl that can make a crush drive her mad and bring forth titillating fantasies.
She soon finds herself considering two possible suitors. Dr. James Stevens, a surgeon attached with the fort and an Englishman is the first to show an interest. However, Gabriella’s attention is quickly drawn to the more exciting Manuel Enriques, a man her maid-servant encourages her to stay clear of for her own good.
As her fifteenth birthday draws nearer, Gabriella gets wrapped up in a whirlwind romance with Manuel. The romance becomes almost a torment for her as she finds herself terrified both by her own overpowering urges and Manuel’s passion for her.
However, before that day can come Gabriella’s world becomes turned upside down as the secrecy and intrigue between her father and Manuel deepens, taking her lover away from her for dangerous secret missions for her father.
At last, Gabriella’s big coming out party draws upon her, together with the promise that she will be permitted to marry Manuel. However, the dangerous events come home for her as the fort is attacked and Gabriella discovers the traitor in their midst. Gabriella flees for her life with her heart broken by the knowledge that her lover may be dead. Pursued by the traitor, she finds safety and solace with a new man whose passionate longing for her rivals Manuel’s and soon brings out her own passion for him.
Will Gabriella end up with her original suitor, the Englishman Dr. James Stevens who at first seemed to be the right match? Or will she stay with the aboriginals who took her in, get over her misgivings of betraying Manuel who very likely is dead, and let herself love Sailfish, the tribe’s chief’s nephew and next in line to be chief? And what of Manuel, whose death Gabriella was certain she witnessed but couldn’t quite let herself believe?
While Dellani Oakes stays true to the recipe for romance in many aspects, including the young innocent heroine falling for the older experienced man, she does stray in one significant way. It was a refreshing change to experience a romance where the obstacles involved outside forces instead of the usual emotionally abusive nature of the hero who inevitably wins the girl by treating her badly.
In this story the hero is neither abusive, nor treats our heroine badly at all. This is a true love story where love triumphs over situation and not one drawing on emotional strife to force the couple together.