Merry Christmas week! Happy Solstice last weekend! Whatever your holiday celebrations entail, I hope you’re having a wonderful season full of love, togetherness, and joy. In case you’re looking for any super-last minute gifts for the readers on your list, here’s a recommendation from the flash fiction fans here.
Book Review: Take the Reins by Siobhan Muir
I have been a fan of Siobhan Muir’s weekly flash fiction contest, Thursday Threads, for quite some time (it’s a daily contest that runs every Thursday in case you were wondering). While she writes books of every heat level and is all-inclusive in her range of couplings, Take the Reins is a sweet, straight-forward male/female paranormal romance between same species entities and a great introduction into Siobhan’s writing. You’re also going to love it if you’re the kind of person who ever wished horses could talk and understands them enough to know that they each have their own unique personality.
In the story, Bethany Stanton escapes the clutches of her misogynistic father and the business deal he’s arranged for himself and his sycophant through the simple expedient of marrying her off only to find herself squarely in a land of mythical creatures who think she is the one of myth. Although the centaurs don’t know quite what to make of her, half fearing her and half hoping she will be the answer to their prayers, Bethany must find a way to help them and discover what she could have done in her own world to help herself. Enter Mack, actually Stephen McMacken, a special ops Army Major sent through the rift that took Bethany on a rescue mission that turns on its head when he finds himself falling in love with Bethany’s spirit, her character, and her presence of mind. Will he be able to complete his mission and bring Bethany home?
What I like about this book
Lots of strong female characters who are not, at the same time, totally independent G.I. Janes, afraid to ever show a moment of weakness. One of the things I’ve always missed in books growing up was the presence of a woman who could take care of herself. Once they started showing up, they were too self-contained to be real and there was usually only one of them. Siobhan gives us a whole cast of female characters who know what they want, aren’t afraid to go after it even when they’re not entirely sure how to do that, admit when they’re wrong and are willing to learn and confide in each other.
The world Bethany enters is as real as the one she leaves and all of the characters she encounters have their own unique set of traits that sets them apart, some making life a bit more difficult for Bethany in this strange new land and some making it difficult to leave. When it comes time for Bethany to make the choice between the land of the centaurs or her own world of humans, the agony of choice has everything to do with fulfilling one’s potential to the best of her ability.
What is challenging about this book
Not much. The pages skim along quickly to the point that you’ll become irritated with anyone who dares to talk to you while you’re lost in Siobhan’s world, but maybe that’s just me. Other than making the rest of your family look like total cads for forcing you back into the human world before you’re ready, there was one unanswered question that jarred regarding Mack’s second in command, Circe Bryant. By the end of the story, I didn’t feel Mack had pursued that question with enough attention to convince me he was quite as interested in his team as I’d thought. While it’s possible Siobhan left that question dangling on purpose, maybe for a sequel (I hope!), and that would have been fine as far as the audience (me) was concerned, the way it was left did not seem in character for the main guy of the story. The ending also felt a tad rushed as if Siobhan had run out of space in which to tell the story. There really were few other loose ends to tie up, so other than Circe, it flowed well.
Classified as a paranormal romance, you’re going to want to know the heat level before you go handing this book to just anyone. The emotional side of the romantic connection occurs very quickly, as any good romance should, but so does the physical side in terms of days the couple knew each other. If you’re a more traditional type, the speed with which these two get together might upset you a bit, but the details of it are left mostly to the imagination. If it makes you feel any better, the two main characters are also aware of the speed and question their reactions, but they each decide they are committed to the other in some way.
Overall, I’d say the heat level was at about a one candle flame – enough to make a teenage girl blush a bit maybe, but the rest of us can handle a bit of kissing and petting without too much of a fuss. On the emotional side, though, the connection is as impossible for the reader to deny as the characters. In addition, the characters are not the normal fare of young 20s. They are mature enough to know who they are and what they want in life – or at least to think they do – and to make their decisions accordingly.
Siobhan Muir has developed a very rich world full of highly unique characters and a fully developed society with its own set of achievements and problems to overcome in Take the Reins. The romance is sweet and light, allowing the reader to focus more fully on the issues that must be overcome as a human woman attempts to help a race of centaurs with very different values and social organization than what she’s used to back home. Although contending against the man sent to bring her home at the same time, she is able to grow more fully into herself with a little help from her larger new friends and build a life that works out best for her. Overall, this book is highly deserving of 5 out of 5 stars in spite of a nagging unanswered question that I hope will be answered in a future novel.
Also, if you’re a writer, don’t forget to join us in the new #WOW555 Challenge. The prompt is already live and you have the rest of the week to craft your 500(ish) word response. I’ll post a call for entries Friday morning. You can copy/paste your entry into the comments, submit a link to your site where the story is posted or email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to keep it super-secret who wrote it until Monday’s reveal.