DiAnn Mills’s Under a Desert Sky is a western mystery novel of love and murder set in the Badlands of New Mexico in 1935. Eva Fortier is a young lady from New York who witnesses her grandfather’s murder. To remain safe, she travels to New Mexico and begins a new life in Native American territory. Dr. Tahoma Benally, the natives’ doctor, unwillingly agrees to help protect Eva. While the murderer searches for Eva, Tahoma struggles not only to protect her but his heart as well. They fight their growing feelings for one another while their differences keep them apart. Through their journeys, Eva and Tahoma learn to rely on God as they face cultural division and death.
Readers travel with Eva from the night of the murder to the discovery of the murderer. Mills shares two worlds through Eva and Tahoma. The chapters are divided into their perspectives, plus a third-person point-of-view. This helps Mills illustrate the real prejudice existing between them. Eva’s relationship with the Native Americans grows as she spends time with them, learning their beliefs and customs. Her relationship with Tahoma drastically changes from distrust and misunderstanding to unexpected love. Together, they strive to remain pure before God. Readers will sympathize with them as they incorporate their faith in the Navajo society, and as they suspect every outsider of murder.
At first, Eva Fortier struggles to work at Ghost Ranch and teach. She is surrounded by strangers who have sworn to protect her, yet no one can be trusted while the murderer is free. As Eva becomes comfortable in her new home, she is torn between remaining faithful to her upbringing or yielding to the lure of the desert. Eva places her life in God’s hands and finds refuge in Him. Through Eva, the author proclaims Psalm 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Eva learns that God can break any obstacle. She leaves behind her finishing school lessons and becomes who God intended her to be.
Eva’s dialogue and perspective illustrate her selfish and sheltered lifestyle. At times readers, along with the ranchers, may find her frustrating when she helps strangers in danger without thinking of her safety. She is fearful, searching for hope, and innocently finding love. She develops into a strong, independent woman of action by trusting in God and His Word. Mills’ characters are realistically stubborn, prideful, and dynamic. They illustrate the possible tension between races and the inner turmoil holding people back.
The story comes to a fitting resolution and the readers’ questions are answered. Mills shows God is always faithful and merciful to His children. Women looking for a western adventure, a mystery, and the beginnings of true love should read this book. I recommend readers open their minds and step into another culture from both sides. – Sarah C. Cespedes, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
When Eva Fortier’s grandfather is murdered, her attorney urges her to leave New York and take refuge in the high desert area of New Mexico.
Leaving her life of wealth behind, Eva attempts to make sense of the tragedies in her life. Navajo David Benally has his hands full taking care of his people’s medical needs. But when his father asks him to help fulfill a vow made to Eva’s father, he has no choice but to oblige. He views Eva as a spoiled rich girl...until he sees her strength in the midst of life-threatening danger.