Book Review for “Dancing on Coals” by Ellen O’Connell

During the month of June, I fell into a MAJOR reading slump. I didn’t put up any book reviews and I’m pretty sure I didn’t read anything period. To pull me out of my slump, I wanted to read something more “fluffy” that I didn’t have to really focus on. A Western historical romance seemed like the best option so I chose Dancing on Coals by Ellen O’Connell. I’ve read quite a few of O’Connell’s books and enjoyed them all; this one was no exception. With that, let’s get into the review! This review will be spoiler free.

🔥I will be rating the heat level in this book and in every book that has romance from now on. If you’re curious about my rating system, you can check it out here.


After escaping robbers intent on murder, Katherine Grant says, “I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Before long I’ll be dancing on the coals.” The highwaymen were the frying pan; the handsome young Apache who saved her from them was the fire; and the coals? Gaetan.

Rage against the enemies of his people has consumed Gaetan from boyhood. The only use he ever found for any white was to test the sharpness of his knife. Forced by his brother to endure Katherine’s company, Gaetan tries to deny what he sees—the white woman has a man’s temper and a lion’s courage. She has an Apache heart.

In spite of hate, distrust and fear, surviving in the rugged country of southern Arizona and northern Mexico forges a strange bond between Katherine and Gaetan. When the bond turns to love, can they admit it? Can they bear the consequences?

My Thoughts:

  • Rating- ⭐⭐⭐
  • Heat Level- 🔥🔥

I liked this book but I didn’t love it, hence the three star rating. It was a simple read, which made it perfect for what I wanted at the time, but I couldn’t help wishing for a bit more. On the positive side, the characters were truly fantastic. O’Connell always writes the best characters and I especially love her portrayal of Native Americans. They’re accurate to the historical time period, written in a respectful way and they tend to be the heroes of the story. There are never any negative stereotypes in O’Connell’s books.

I also loved the main character, Katherine. She was strong and had an independent streak but yet she still fit in with the 1800s time period. Often when authors try to write strong female characters in historical settings, they come off as way too modern but that was not the case here. I also really liked Katherine and Gaetan’s relationship… but I’m really sad that there wasn’t more of it. If you’re into slow burns, this is the book for you. I don’t think anything romantic happened until well after the 50% point. That leads me to what I didn’t love so much.

The pacing was a bit too slow for my taste. I think the romance should have happened much sooner because we just weren’t given much time with Katherine and Gaetan together as a couple. The main point of this book is the romance so since nothing happened with that until later in the story, the first half was slightly boring. I also didn’t care for how everything wrapped up. There was an epilogue, which I liked, but the time jump from the end of the book was MASSIVE.

Overall, this book is simply fine. It’s a basic Western historical romance that I had fun reading but doubt I’ll ever read again.

Final Thoughts:

I’m so happy that this book pulled me out of my reading slump, even it wasn’t the best story I’ve ever read. What are you reading right now? Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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