Title: Fire Horse
Author: Mickie B. Ashling
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Links: Amazon, Publisher
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: Novel (256 pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A guest review by J.K. Hogan
Summary: An epic love story that broke my heart several times over but left me satisfied in the end.
Preston Fawkes is ten the first time he meets fifteen-year-old Konrad Schnell at the San Antonio Polo Club. Captivated by the mystique surrounding the sport of kings, Pres vows to learn the game at the hands of his newly acquired friend and mentor. The hero worship soon grows into something deeper, but the friends are separated when Preston goes off to boarding school in England.
The relationship that follows is riddled with challenges?their age gap, physical distance, and parental pressure taking precedence over feelings yet to be explored. Although their bond goes deep, they deal with the reality of their situation differently: Preston is open and fearless while Konrad is reticent and all too aware of the social implications of making a public stand.
Their paths intersect and twine, binding them as tightly as a cowboy’s lasso, but fate may alter their plans. How will love overcome the divots in the turf as they gallop toward the future—one where obstacles no longer stand in their way?
One word for this book: Wow. I first picked it up because I’m a cowgirl at heart, and while I don’t have my horses anymore, they’re still close to my heart. I don’t know anything about polo, however, so I thought it would be interesting. The polo part of the story was well-written, researched, and seamless.
The sound of eight ponies thundering across three hundred yards of turf was an auditory sensation akin to being enveloped by a crowd at a rock concert.
The theme was woven throughout the plot, and even in the descriptions of the characters. To someone who knows horses, it was very well done.
He shut his eyes and shook his head like a frustrated pony trying to get rid of a fly.
I also thought it would be just another typical contemporary m/m romance storyline. Boy, was I ever wrong.
The story begins in medias res, with forty-five-year-old polo player Preston Fawkes in the hospital after a major fall. If you didn’t read the blurb, you’d have probably thought the love interest in the story was his doctor, Rayne Carlisle, as there is considerable chemistry between the two of them.
But as Preston begins to drift through his morphine induced haze, his mind drifts back to when he meets the love of his life, Konrad Schnell. He first met Konrad when he was ten and Konrad was fifteen. Preston begins tagging along after Konrad, trying to learn polo despite the reservations of his abusive rancher father. He eventually begins grooming for Konrad so they spend a lot of time together.
As he gets older, Preston notices that he is beginning to have physical feelings for Konrad, and he actually witnesses an encounter between Konrad and a cowboy that leads him to believe Konrad is gay. He confronts Konrad about it and learns that he is, in fact, gay, but deeply closeted with no plans of coming out, ever. Keep in mind that their budding relationship takes place in the seventies, on the cusp of the burgeoning AIDS crisis, when attitudes about homosexuality were vastly different.
Konrad forgoes college to join the professional polo circuit while Preston gets sent away to boarding school at Eton at the insistence of his English mother, so they are separated. Before they part ways, Pres badgers Kon into kissing him. The kiss marks the start to momentous love affair that spans decades. As their relationship develops, you just know in the back of your mind that their love would destroy one or both of them.
Kon owned me, body and soul, and each time I lay in his arms, I was cognizant of that undeniable truth.
They’re both perfectly imperfect characters; Preston, the idealistic kid and the playboy adult; Konrad, never able to acknowledge the feelings he says he has for Preston. Yet throughout the years, they keep coming together in blazing encounters, during which all else falls away.
He kissed me then, hard, rough, violent, and so fucking good.
As in every good angst-ridden romance, tragedy strikes—but it was one that I did not expect—and it tore me open and left me bleeding for what should have been. After this event, the story picks up where it began, with Preston in the hospital, mulling over his uncertain future and his unfulfilled life.
Despite his fears and ongoing demons, he was all I ever wanted. I had enough courage for both of us, and I’d be able to get us through any crisis if he would only let me.
I especially loved the introduction and explanation of the term Fire Horse, which I’ll let you discover on your own, but it was just another interesting facet to this story. It tied everything together perfectly.
The ending was catastrophically perfect. Pres and Kon get their HEA, but Ms. Ashling makes them, and us, bleed for it.
God knows what was going through his mind, but I was more than willing to hand over my heart again. In truth, it had never belonged to anyone else.
This book kept me riveted from the very first page, and I read it almost without stopping, desperate to find out what happened next. I’ll admit, I was crying for a good amount of that time. This isn’t your typical cookie cutter romance and maybe isn’t a book I would normally choose, but it’s most definitely one that I will never forget.