In 1879, Omaha librarian Lise Dupree struggles to keep her part-Sioux heritage hidden as she reluctantly agrees to help research legal questions for a band of Ponca Indians led by Standing Bear. What begins as a quest for justice becomes a search for identity as she encounters ambitious district attorney Zach Spencer in a battle that will force them both to change the roles they have created for themselves. In the process, they confront Lise's haunting past, Zach's political aspirations, the dangerous prejudice of an unstable Indian agent, and the subtle differences between justice and the law. They discover smoldering love and a shared passion for justice -- theirs if they can embrace the changes which have allowed them to open their hearts to one another.
Nowak (Choices) earns high marks for creating excellent historical verisimilitude, deep characterization, and serious personal growth for both leads in this romance set during the 1879 trial of Standing Bear, which spurred U.S. legal recognition of Native Americans as people. Lise Dupree hides her quarter-Sioux heritage in order to keep her position as Omaha s head librarian, but after her beloved aunt is imprisoned by the government, along with her Ponca family, Lise feels torn between doing everything she can to help her aunt and keeping her own secret safe. Meanwhile, D.A. Zach Spencer, obligated by his position to take the case against leader Standing Bear, begins to feel uncomfortable defending unfair laws, putting him in conflict with the mentor who is grooming him to become a Senator and who urges him to take a hard line against Indian rights. During the trial, Lise and Zach simultaneously navigate intense attraction, politics, and conflicted ideas of both what is right and what is personally possible, yielding a warm romance story is that is smart, thoughtful, and encouraging as well as utterly charming.