Title: Unstable Stud
Author: Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Page Count: 204
Reviewed by: Vallie
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Horses were his passion, until he laid eyes on his boss.
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?
The Dreamspun Desires Series is starting to become a serious addiction folks. No joke. I remember reading Harlequin novels many years ago and wondering what it would be like to have the mm version. And what do you know?! It’s amazing! I’ve read quite a few books by now and they all share the same kind of guilty indulgence thing going on: drama, some cheesy dialogue and/or plot, pretty improbable situations, hot smex, and amazing HEAs. What’s not to love? While I didn’t love this particular addition to the series, it was an okay read and I mostly enjoyed myself –minus a few cringe-worthy moments I’ll mention in a bit.
So the gist of it: Luke works as a stable boy for Clay Hunter, who in Luke’s words was “as rich as Croesus and as blue-blooded as the queen. He’d never look twice at a poor stable boy from the wrong side of the tracks.” See what I mean about the dramatic flair? Anyway, Clay is mourning the tragic death of his partner who was a professional rider and was trampled by his horse, King, at a race gone bad. Luke rarely sees the boss, as Luke is but a lowly stable boy, after all, but he gets promoted to King’s groomer, because that horse only responds to a couple of people and Luke is surprisingly a soothing presence to King. I actually enjoyed reading about Luke’s interactions with the horse and the level of detail that went into the horse’s daily routine was impressive. However, it could have been cut down considerably. I think a lot of writing ended up being filler, something I noticed in scenes with Luke and his lovely landlady. Clay ends up spending more and more time in Luke’s presence, observing King’s progress as a breeding horse.
Things got a little weird here. There were a couple of scenes where the process of breeding with a dummy mare -and later on an actual mare- was ridiculously detailed. It was frankly uncomfortable to read. Not only that, Luke was describing the goings-on and started getting turned on, thinking what it would be like to have sex with Clay. Neon red flashing lights kept going off in my head: SICK SICK SICK ABORT ABORT ABORT. Case in point:
Luke watched until King thrust forward into her. He heard movement at his side and glanced at Clay, who was entranced by the sight of King and his mare. Luke flushed at the thought of what Clay would look like aroused and in the act, but such thoughts had no place in the stud barn.
Exactly my thoughts!I almost DNFed right there, but I kept going, and to be honest, I’m glad I did, because I managed to get over the disgust over Luke’s weird sex associations and move on.
The story had an overall good vibe to it. I wanted Luke to find happiness because he was such a good guy. He had a great work ethic, he was kind with King, and he just wanted someone to love, really. Luke held a torch for Clay for the majority of the book, but Clay did not show any signs that he might feel the same until about 70%. I wouldn’t mind if the story was set up as a slow-burn, but the fact that Clay showed no indication of reciprocating Luke’s wistful musings made it seem more one-sided than it ended up being. There was no sexual tension. Instead, after a bit of a scare with Luke (I loved the medical drama!) Clay started flirting very subtly with Luke and very shortly after that, straight up asked him if he wanted to be in a relationship with Clay. Umm…okay. So they started this relationship. Not sexual, because Luke wasn’t ready. But they became closer, they had dinner dates, and sleep-overs (in separate bedrooms) and just got on. There were some developments with King’s part of the plot that made me question if Clay was really falling in love with Luke or if he was clinging on to his old life. And then, because of this development, which Clay instigated came more drama and the make or break it moment in the story. Again, Clay’s fault every which way you look at it, and yet, he was being a huge hypocrite about it all. I really can’t say more about what happened because it would spoil it, but I was seriously pissed off about it.
So. There were problems. There were awkward situations. The drama was not developed very nicely (except for the medical drama, can’t go wrong there, I loved it!). But the story succeeded in making me feel, even though my feelings were not always pleasant, and I was invested to see what will happen at the end. They eventually did have sex, and it was intimate and sweet. The HEA was dreamy, as expected, and sort of kind of maybe made up for the cringe-worthy moments I had while reading.
So, even though I didn’t love this, I think fans of the Dreamspun Desires Series might enjoy reading it more than I did.