Jesse Woodlock didn’t mean to become an outlaw. Yet, in a misguided attempt to save his brother, he’s ended up attached to the Iron Bandits. And while robbery isn’t so bad, Jesse isn’t a fan of the fact they’ve turned to murder. When the gang is cornered by the Sheriff of Stallion Ridge, Jesse finds himself the sole prisoner and immediately begins planning his escape. But getting caught might be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Sheriff Calhoun Klelbor doesn’t have much use for criminals, even when they’re as attractive as Jesse. But when the man ends up helping them on multiple occasions, while protesting his innocence, Cal begins to look into his story more. As a centaur shifter, Cal is used to honoring family and Jesse’s need to protect his brother resonates with Cal, who couldn’t save his own. When the Iron Bandits threaten Stallion Ridge, Cal will need all the help he can get to save the town. Even if means accepting the help of a sarcastic crook with a heart of gold.
Okay, I have to be honest. When I first started reading Heartache and Hoofbeats, I laughed like an idiot. All I could imagine was the old children’s cartoon BraveStarr and that comparison isn’t meant to be flattering. But once I got past my initial chuckles, I was able to settle down and enjoy parts of the story in a big way. Cal and Jesse are definitely a hot couple and have many an intense encounter, often against cell bars and other western paraphernalia. It’s faintly ridiculous, but they do work together on most levels and they are quite fun to read about. Jesse isn’t as well developed as Cal, but neither suffer excessively from being flat or boring. Cal’s backstory adds a lot to his character and offers a hint of darker and more serious aspects to this world of shifters and mythical creatures.
My biggest annoyance with Heartache and Hoofbeats was the obviousness of it all. There was no subtly here. Every aspect of the plot felt telegraphed and lacking in much artistry. You can spot the plot points a mile a way and if it can happen, it will. Coincidence is too kind a word for the utter predictability of it all. And while it can be argued a lot of books have this same problem, Heartache and Hoofbeats just felt a bit heavy handed about the whole thing.
Heartache and Hoofbeats is the first in the Stallion Ridge series and it has a fairly engaging couple that tend to be fun and sexy in mostly good ways. The story leaves a lot to be desired, but there’s enough here to save Heartache and Hoofbeats from being comically bad. I think any reader who enjoys shifter MCs or their romances with a fantasy flare could appreciate this one on some level.