Eighteen months ago, tragedy struck Bywater Farm when a riding accident killed Clay Hunter’s lover and traumatized his prize horse, King of Hearts. Clay and King lingered in limbo, surviving but not really living, until a breath of fresh air in the form of Luke Davis, a new groom in the stud barn, revives them both.
When a fall from King’s back sends Luke to the emergency room, Clay watches the shaky foundation of their budding relationship tumble down. Can Clay really love a jockey again, or will his fear of losing another man he loves keep them apart for good?
I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, but I haven’t lived there, not really, since I was eighteen. It hasn’t even been my official permanent address since I was twenty-three. (We won’t discuss how many years ago that was.) And yet when you say “home,” Lexington is still what comes to my mind. It’s also what comes to mind when you say a number of other words.
Those were the words Elizabeth said to me not quite a year ago when we were first discussing the Dreamspun Desires line and my possible contribution to it. It would perhaps have been more logical to set the book in Texas, where I live now, instead of setting it in Lexington, where I haven’t lived in a number of years, but people don’t ride the same in Texas as they do in Lexington. It’s a horse culture, but it’s not my horse culture. My horse culture is English saddles, three-day events, Thoroughbred auctions, and Derby Day. (No, not Kentucky Derby Day. Nobody in Kentucky needs to specify which Derby we’re talking about because really, in our world, there’s only one.) Big hats, fancy parties with betting pools, the race on every TV in sight. That’s my horse culture. In Texas you can barely find it on TV at home, much less out in a bar or restaurant. Sacrilege!
Bywater Farms, the horse farm in Unstable Stud, is a Kentucky horse farm through and through, an amalgam of a couple of different farms I spent quite a bit of time on when I was younger, but ultimately a true racing farm with hot-blooded stallions kept separate from the mares, in stalls that are nicer than some houses I’ve seen, with heat in the winter and fans or even air conditioning in the summer. They each have their own paddock, because everyone knows stallions don’t play nicely with each other. They have their own equipment, their own grooms, and their every whim catered to because their bloodlines are golden and their sperm is worth thousands or even tens of thousands per ounce.
This is the world Clay Hunter has grown up in, fallen in love in, and lost his lover in. He’s jaded and heartbroken and used to being as universally recognized and revered as his horses. And then there’s Luke Davis. Stable boy, not even a groom when the book starts. He’s a literal muckraker, cleaning up after the stallions because at least that lets him be with the horses. He’s poor, has only a high-school education, and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. He has no place in Clay’s world except to get rid of the detritus left behind by the beautiful beasts he adores.
This is the horse world I grew up in, the one that still calls to my soul. Yes, writing a book set in a town I know, but from twenty years ago, is a challenge, but it couldn’t be set anywhere else. Fortunately for me, my family is still there, and my mother is tickled every time I ask her a question. You’ll see more of her and her input in A Matchless Man, which comes out in October, but for now, enjoy Unstable Stud!
Thank you, Two Chicks Obsessed, for hosting a stop on my blog tour, and thank all of you for reading. Leave a comment with a horse-related entry to be eligible to win an ebook of your choice from my Dreamspinner publications.
I’ve really enjoyed the Dreamspun Desires series so far, and Ariel Tachna’s book in this category was another one I enjoyed. Luke was a sweet, kind, gentle man who just wanted to pay the bills left behind by his mother and find someone who would love him. Meanwhile, Clay still mourning the tragic accident that took his partner allowed Luke to take on the care of King, his partner’s horse.
This book was a very slow burn, first kiss at about 70%. It harkened back to the sweet Harlequin books that rarely went much further than a consummation with a virgin bride. I enjoyed the sweetness of it, as that is what I have come to expect from this series.
However, there were areas of the book that I felt could have been expanded, questions that I thought should have been dealt with or answered. Those things left me feeling like the book was somewhat unfinished. They reached their HEA, but as a reader, I was left somewhat unsatisfied with how things were glossed over, or left unanswered.
I did like the relationship between the two MC’s, as well as their relationships with the secondary characters. I just wished for a little more development.
3.5 pieces of eye candy.
“Is Mr. Hunter as handsome in person as he is on TV?”
So much for not talking about his reaction to his boss. “Yes,” Luke said simply, hoping that would be the end of it.
“Don’t give me that, young man,” Mrs. Twitchell scolded. “I’m old, not dead. I know how these things work. He’s gay and single, and so are you. There’s no reason for you not to have noticed him.”
“He’s also my boss and completely out of my league,” Luke reminded her. “I may be single, but that doesn’t make me interesting to a man like him.”
“A man like what?” Mrs. Twitchell pressed. “Lonely because his partner died almost two years ago? Or maybe afraid to trust again because all the news ever talks about is how much money he has? Oh, or maybe ostracized by at least half the horse world for being gay in the first place? Have I forgotten anything?”
Luke squirmed in his chair, trying to formulate a reply. The waiter brought their steaks before he could decide what to say. Luke hoped the distraction would allow him to change the subject, but Mrs. Twitchell had the bit between her teeth. “You didn’t answer me.”
“I think he is lonely,” Luke said, “but he’s used to cultured, powerful men like him who know which fork to use and which wine to pair with what dish. Men who have a different suit for each day of the week and a full wardrobe for the change of seasons. I watch the news too, and I hear how people in his circles are judged. I wouldn’t last ten minutes at his side. They’d crucify me and take him with me.”
“There’s nothing those men know that you couldn’t learn given a little time, and there’s nothing they have that you couldn’t have with a little money,” Mrs. Twitchell said with a dismissive wave of her fork. “But I’ll tell you what they don’t have, most of them. They don’t have your passion for the horses in your care. They don’t have your compassion for those less fortunate than you. And they don’t have the kind of heart that has you taking an old woman out to dinner rather than going out for a night on the town when you’ve surely earned it. If you’re right—and I’m not saying you are—but if you’re right, you’re better off without someone like that. But here’s the other thing I know: that horse you spent today taking care of would be a liability in most people’s books. He’s unrideable and barely even useful as a stud. And yet Mr. Hunter kept him. That should tell you something about the kind of man your boss is, no matter what face he shows to the world.”
When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).