Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum

Book Review

The Legend of Tommy Jo Sanchez

Written by Billie Bierer
Published by Rabid Press; (May 30, 2006)
ISBN: # 0974303933

High drama describes each page of this fascinating love story. I focused my reading of The Legend of Tommy Jo Sanchez on her love interest – Lt. Henry James, U.S. Army. At one point, the love Tommy Jo felt for this Buffalo Soldier reminded me of West Point Military Academy’s first black graduate, Lt. Henry O. Flipper. In 1882, Flipper was convicted of “conduct unbecoming an officer.” His release may have been linked to his love interest. In Bierer’s story, when Lt. Henry James hurt TJ, her friends called him ugly and no-account but TJ’s hurt became her refuge.

Bierer uses descriptive language to draw the reader into each page of her story. From the beginning – stealing El Capitan’s stallion, encountering Indians, and dining with cowboys, TJ‘s heart opens up to a handsome mulatto Buffalo Soldier. She’s a young woman from a hard life who knows the game of poker but every meeting between the two is filled with tenderness. TJ’s friends are full of energy, opinions, knowledge, and strategy. Business deals - underhanded and legitimate intertwine between every page. TJ Sanchez is adventure – fighting, stabbing, repairing lost dreams for her friends, connecting with the Chinese family, helping deliver babies, riding on rough grounds with her stolen horse - Raven, traveling by train, and even attempting to attend the symphony unescorted… all of her experiences and emotions are linked to her own insecurities. TJ’s pain is easy to understand but she seems to always be thinking about her next move. When jolted from her horse during a lightening storm, she didn’t waste much time trying to keep the Doggie House alive. A reader might think that TJ had issues with “trust and independence.”

This historical romantic fiction can be enjoyed by all - students, researchers, strategists, horse lovers and even poets. I was entertained by the details… from the poker games with high stakes to the historical western locations… TJ and her friends (and enemies) frequented bars and brothels in Tombstone, the courthouse in Bisbee, and military treks from Ft. Huachuca to Ft. Bowie. The hustle and bustle in San Francisco’s Chinatown painted clear images of busy buyers, sellers, and workers. The level of detail makes the story real and there’s a lot of truth in fiction!

When the story highlighted the healing and bartering between the Buffalo Soldier and the American Indian, this same difficult relationship is indicated in historical documents. Bierer writes…Henry and the young Indian, Hawk, eat “bacon, beans and biscuits” while discussing our human nature to be planners vs. men of action. Reciprocal learning is mixed in many adventures. Hawk’s sickness adds intensity and reveals the prejudices of that time. Nevertheless, Tommy Jo Sanchez and Henry James put the pieces of their lives together in Paradise. An action-packed, historically-correct romance. I savored every page.

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