⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite

Not the Same Water by Karen Black is a beautiful, bittersweet romance set in the 1890s in the American West. Becky Russell is a young woman training to be a clothing designer in Red Wing, Minnesota, on the shores of the Mississippi River. When she and her friends ride a paddle steamer upriver to view a military display at the nearby National Guard camp, little does she realize her life will change forever. When the steamer founders during the return trip to Red Wing, Becky’s life is saved by a dashing young Army Lieutenant, Bill Cravats. As Becky and Bill slowly fall in love, events move to separate them. Becky’s close call with death solidifies her true passion for becoming a doctor, and even more unlikely, for the time, a trauma surgeon, a profession unheard of for women. When Bill is posted to Pine Ridge in South Dakota to help quell a native uprising, the pair are separated, but not before they become engaged. The story follows Bill’s harrowing experiences at the Battle of Wounded Knee and the Battle of Bloody Pocket as the U.S. Army ruthlessly puts down the uprising. Meanwhile, Becky manages to find a medical school that will accept her and begins the torturous and challenging task of learning medicine and enduring the disdain and bullying of many of her male classmates and professors. Given the obstacles thrown in their path, will these two young lovers ever find their way back to each other?

Not the Same Water is a fun read, full of twists and turns that keep the reader engaged and even gasping at times. Author Karen Black has created two wonderful characters, Bill and Becky, to carry her tale of prejudice, injustice, and downright unfairness toward both women and Native Americans at the time. I particularly appreciated Becky’s character as a woman able to retain her innate femininity but still aggressive and brave enough to challenge the status quo. Her valedictorian address at her graduation was as inspiring and beautiful to readers as I’m sure it was to the listeners in her story. The plotting is clever and intricate. Although I’m confident the main surprise in the narrative will be evident, the author kept us guessing for a long enough time to make us wonder if we’d got it right. I loved that the story was used to tell the events of Wounded Knee and Bloody Pocket from the Native American perspective. The use of Joseph’s character to soften and understand better the attitude of the Native Americans to the intrusion of the white man was an inspired choicer. I learned a lot about the period and the locale from this story, and for me, a wonderful love story that educates is one to be lauded. This story does the job perfectly, and the author deserves the plaudits. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year; believe me, I read a lot. I can highly recommend this book.