A dark romance set in the eventing world!
Buried at home this winter by snow or subzero temperatures and missing your horse? Pull up a chair by the fire, friend, and let Horsefever turn up the heat for you.
All right, all right: I will be the first to acknowledge that I am not a reader of romance novels on the regular, and I suspect that many of my fellow Horse Nation-ers may say the same. But we’re all allowed a guilty pleasure or two now and again, so consider this permission to indulge yourself a little.
Lee Hope’s Horsefever may be a romance first and foremost, but it also tells the story of the highs and lows of breaking into upper-level equestrian competition and what — or whom — it takes to get there. So if you’re “not a romance person,” just trust me on this one; I came for the horses too, and I stayed because I suddenly found myself unable to put it down.
Nikki, whose love for eventing always seems to have outweighed her love for her non-horsey husband Cliff, dreams of bringing her talented but hotheaded Thoroughbred, Beau, up through the levels into major international competition. Enter Gabe, a former professional rider and trainer who all but disappeared from the industry after he was crippled by a cross-country accident. Nikki connects with Gabe on a level that she’s never been able to with Cliff — her husband supports her dedication to the sport financially, knowing it makes her happy, but he’s vocal in his opinion that it’s a reckless and dangerous hobby. Gabe, meanwhile, finds a new purpose in Nikki, latching onto her passion for eventing and devoting himself to helping her make it to the top.
As their rider-trainer relationship progresses and Nikki finally finds her rhythm with Beau and starts to collect ribbons in the upper levels with Gabe’s assistance, both of their non-horsey spouses grow increasingly suspicious of the pair’s closeness and long weekends spent on the road at events — not entirely without reason, as Gabe had a history of illicit affairs with riders prior to his accident. The strain on her marriage has Nikki somewhat hesitant to continue pushing further, but Gabe is all in, firmly believing that she and Beau have what it takes and that her concern for Cliff is holding her back from success.
As both of their relationships begin to fall apart, the story takes on a darker edge; accusations abound on both sides, threats are made, and the final chapters unfold into a high-stakes drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Ultimately, Horsefever ended up being quite a bit more than the love triangle that I’ll admit I was kind of expecting. It’s a compelling story that explores the depths of the basic human desires that motivate us. As equestrians, many of us will relate to Nikki’s passion for the sport of eventing (although I’ll warn you now, to a horse person, the ever-so-subtle “riding” analogies do push into the territory of cringe-worthy cheesiness more than once), but Hope uses horses and the equestrian lifestyle as a small-scale representation of themes that are prevalent throughout our society, making it more of a cautionary tale of passion gone too far that’s relevant to a far greater audience.
So pour yourself a glass of wine, curl up in a nice pile of blankets, and add Horsefever to your stack of horse books to get you through the long, bitter weeks of winter yet to come.
Eileen Cody’s love of reading goes back almost as long as her love of all things equine, and while her literary interests are about as varied as her equestrian ones, horse books naturally dominate her shelves. Find her a horse book she won’t read or a discipline she won’t try, and she probably owes you a drink or something.