Dark Horse by Kate Sherwood at Dreamspinner Press

I admit I read this because I got it free in a give-away at AllRomance, but let me add that I am now actually buying the sequel because I enjoyed the book so much.

This review is rather spoilery, but if you don’t want the spoilers and just want my overall review, here you go: great read, intense but emotionally fulfilling with interesting, likeable characters.

The story revolves around Dan, a Kentucky horse trainer with a hard-luck background who found love and happiness only to lose it due to a tragic accident that put his lover into a fatal coma. He struggles with trying to move on while his lover lingers, but then is faced with an upheaval when both his lover is taken off life support by his parents and at the same time the horse farm Dan works at is sold.

If that sounds very angsty and intense, I assure you it is. As a mourner myself, it was sometimes hard to read Dan’s POV experience dealing with his lover’s lingering death and its aftermath. Sherwood spends most of the book exploring Dan’s emotions and reactions, very beautifully and intimately, which makes it extremely intense. She does not go melodramatically over the top, however, which in one sense keeps the effect of Dan’s experiences so realistic.

The balance to Dan’s sad past are the new arrivals in his life, Jeff and Evan. These men are involved in a relationship that is deceptively casual, but care about each other deeply and have been in love for some time. Evan, the charismatic young corporate mogul, sets his sites on Dan and puts into motion the domino of events that gets Dan out of Kentucky and under Evan and Jeff’s watchful, desiring eyes in California.

I really liked several points to this story:

  • Dan is utterly oblivious about other people’s emotional landscapes, which is often just a character trope to create miscommunication angst, but Sherwood creates a back story for Dan that makes his lack of socialization make total sense.
  • The threesome isn’t easy for any of them; Dan is used to loving, exclusive monogamy while Jeff and Evan are very jealous of each other, no matter what they tell Dan (or themselves). Dan is understandably confused by the whole thing, and cautious. It’s very believable.
  • Secondary characters like Evan’s younger sister and Dan’s co-workers are all very fun and interesting, and help build the story up rather than distract from it.
  • The side character Ryan, whom Dan has a brief fling with, is very endearing, and I missed him when he “left town” to tour with his band. I hope he finds happiness, or at least makes a return showing in the sequel.
  • The whole story revolves around horses, which as a former “horse girl” I really enjoyed. Sherwood obviously knows that world really well, and her insider knowledge adds a lot of texture to the story.

There is a minor sub-plot about Dan’s long-lost sister that I felt was left hanging, and I wonder whether Sherwood will bring that issue into the sequel. It has a lot of potential for plot twists, and is fairly dramatic, so I kind of hope so!

Over all, I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Go buy it! It’s worth every penny.

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