Red Blood, White Lies
This historical novel recreates Florida during the Seminole wars. Set in the 1830s when Andrew Jackson was President, Victoria had emancipated the slaves in the British colonies, and Spain had ceded Florida to the United States, the novel does an excellent job of portraying these events at a personal level. Rene Risteau is a Huguenot who lives among the Indians when President Jackson declares, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” One of Rene’s old friends, Chief Summer Sky, is laid to rest, while another, Carlos Hernandez, is smuggling black slaves in and has turned against the Seminoles who shelter the runaways. Rene’s black friend, Coffee, must help his beloved Aleta escape to Andros. Young Red Wing is Rene’s student in the ways of nature.
An unwanted war threatens their existence, a war over land, religion and retaliation. In writing of the legendary chief Osceola, author Belloit soft-pedals his participation. She doesn’t mention that he led a raid on the train in Inglis, that he executed Charley Emathla for cooperating with the whites, attacked Major Dade with a thousand of the Unconquered, and killed all of his soldiers except for one. That night he gave the medicine man the scalp of Indian agent Wiley Thompson. She portrays Osceola as a sympathetic victim who dies bravely in prison.
Belloit uses good detail which shows her depth of research. Her insights fill in the story and give fantasy free play. Pen and ink illustrations add to the enjoyment. On the theme of war, she writes, “Rene realized that all men fight for the same things: the love of what is right, family, the land they love, and home.” She has preserved the Seminole way of life for future generations.