Wild Heart by Carolyn Haley is a Wintertime Reading pick #equestrian #romance #horses #giveaway
She’s afraid to love again, and he’s afraid to love at all...until their shared love for horses shows them how to love each other.
In one day at a horse show in 1975, Linny Eagan loses her job, her beloved, and her dream of becoming an equestrian champion. The triple loss forces her to invent a new dream—this time skipping the romance part and trusting only in horses, which can never betray her.
Her first try lands her at a public trail-riding stable on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There she meets Con Winston, who dreams of being a Western artist on his own Montana ranch. But he must play family head-games for two more years, when he will inherit a fortune that will make his dream come true. Until then he won’t waver from his path, or give himself to anyone.
Yet in working together with horses, he and Linny discover a perfect match of heart and mind. But Linny doesn’t share Con’s dream and won’t ask him to sacrifice it; and Con feels the same way about her dream. When things fall apart at the stable, they regretfully continue in opposite directions, connected only by Con’s half-wild horse.
Living apart finally proves to them that dreams need love to sustain them, and the only chance to have both is to reinvent a new dream together.
Shark, like all the trail horses, was strong from daily treks through deep sand. The string of riders scaled the slopes without puffing and lurched down the other sides. Our seats thumped the saddles, but we all identified with Lawrence of Arabia as we spread across the dunes, silhouetted against the fuchsia-streaked sky.
I savored the breeze across my skin and the slanted light that picked out the gold in Con’s hair and skin, the white of his eyes and smile, as he moved around on his copper mare chatting with the other riders. He rode with the ease of the Marlboro Man, making me wonder how he had learned the Western seat so well if his life had been spent in prep schools and Ivy League college. He’d only worked at Galeson’s for a few weeks; could that be enough? I found the transition from English awkward, as well as some of the vocabulary—corral instead of paddock, lope instead of canter, cinch instead of girth—though perhaps if I rode Western daily and had a bit of instruction, it would come more easily. Or maybe Con was just one of those born naturals, like Michael.
I sighed and pinned my attention on Con to keep it from wandering down unwanted alleys. He caught me watching a few times as he and Miriam funneled the group back into line when the dune dropped to join a trail marked by signs and tire ruts, where bridle path and dune-buggy route shared one official track to the beach. Shark jerked up her head and pointed her ears at a grassy knoll ahead, at the same moment other horses whinnied and snorted. The riders muttered and giggled, unsure what lay ahead.
In answer to our unspoken question, an arm of wind swept over the knoll to salt-tingle our noses. The group scrambled forward, to be blocked by Miriam upon mounting the crest.
“Look sharp and sit tight,” she told everyone. “Your horses might get excited at this part. Stay in line behind me, and if you all keep control, we might get in a little trot.”
We attempted to obey, falling silent as we beheld a broad, flat beach arching out of sight in both directions, fringed by ocean stained to gold-slashed burgundy by the setting sun. My collar and bandana fluttered as I gazed, while all around me the horses bobbed and blew, straining to be free.
Shark started to rev up like a race car—and Klatawah didn’t bother revving, just bunched her muscles and shot off in a spray of sand. Con yelped as he lurched back, but his polo reflexes saved him, whereas I had to save myself by grabbing the saddle horn when Shark dropped her head and leaped after them, searing the reins through my fingers. Around us whoops, whinnies, and hollers erupted as the rest of the herd spewed across the beach like buckshot.
In the space of two seconds, I relived my fall yet again while my limbs scrambled for purchase. I had never ridden as fast as Shark was galloping—wind ripping my bandana off and splaying open my shirt—and I’d lost my stirrups at her first plunging stride. But I found my balance and just let the horse go, inhibition having been blown away with everything else. Nothing mattered except the freedom of pounding across the sand straight into the sunset. Behind me lay a helter-skelter of shouting blurs belonging to another life.
Joy brought tears to my eyes, and wind streaked them across my face. I whipped by Con, who had managed to circle Klatawah and regain control. He spurred the mare after me like a cop after a speeder and ate the distance between us with Klatawah’s huge strides. I saw a russet shape encroaching from the corner of my eye; then Klatawah drew even, her nostrils gaping and mane streaming as Con stretched over her neck, urging her on. No chase, I realized, but a race!
This was not supposed to happen. From the glance he shot me, I knew that he knew, and was throwing responsibility away for a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I caught the same fever and spurred Shark onward, feeling wilder than I ever had in my life.
We veered toward the water, hooting and pumping the reins. Our horses extended beneath us in their own instinctive race, until the beach dropped sharply into the waves. Shark and Klatawah jammed on the brakes to get their hindquarters under them, almost hopping as they adjusted to the slope and the sudden momentum-stopping water. Con and I banged in our saddles, splashed to soaking before we realized we’d be swimming if we angled out any farther. Our race deteriorated into a scramble back upslope, the horses heaving through the wet, gummy sand to the drained, packed sand, and up over the shoulder to the dry beach.
I reined in, laughing, and met his grin while our mounts blew and bucked in circles around each other. He was waiting to meet my gaze each time our horses were pointed in the right direction, and he held it with equal intensity, all masks forgotten, all words that could be said captured in our smiles. For those moments, I felt my heart beat with his and almost saw something reach out between us and bind us to each other.
But then faint shouts broke the connection and brought reality back.
With a sigh, we turned toward the shouts and saw, far down the shore, that the other riders had stopped their horses and stayed in the saddle, though they remained confused and scattered. Miriam crisscrossed the beach trying to round them up. She paused after each success to holler and wave at us. We looked at each other again, no longer smiling—no longer an us—then exchanged nods and about-faced to lope leisurely back along the upper sands.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
This book is a twist on the conventional horse story. While the horses are definitely key players, the story—and romance—centers on a young woman in the 1970s trying to find her place in the horse world against the feminist mores of the time. Her family wants her to walk through the doors they worked so hard to open, and achieve higher education and career opportunity; whereas she wants only to work with horses. She lacks the abilities, opportunities, and financial resources that make one a successful campaigner in equestrian competition, so what’s left besides mucking stalls? Her defiance of conformity pressure and unexpected relationship with a man walking a parallel but different path, lead her painfully to the right choices for her heart and life.
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Carolyn Haley lives and breathes novels as an author, editor, reader, and reviewer, all from her home in rural Vermont.
Through her editorial business, DocuMania, she writes magazine articles and business/commercial copy, while helping other book authors through editing, production, and education. She is a regular contributor for the “Thinking Fiction” column on the An American Editor blog, and writes reviews for New York Journal of Books.
Besides working with words, Carolyn enjoys outdoor pursuits, such as gardening, paddling, walking, and riding, along with autosports and aviation.
For direct correspondence, contact Carolyn at email@example.com.
For more about her novels, visit:
Borealis Books (https://carolynhaley.wordpress.com)