Guest Review: Hoofbeats by A.J. Marcus and Nicole Godfrey

After a run of bad luck, gifted horse trainer Cole Frasier thinks he’s lost his touch. When he’s offered three times his normal rate to gentle a stallion, he needs the money badly enough he jumps at the opportunity, even if his boss is of questionable morality.

Once he meets Midnight Blood, he knows there’s something special about the horse, but he doesn’t know how special until he begins sharing dreams with the magnificent steed.

Derek Dancing Hawk is a horse shifter trapped in his horse form due to guilt over losing the wild herd he was guarding. When he meets Cole, as Midnight Blood, he wants to find a way to be human again. During a fight between Cole and the ranch foreman, he manages to shift and save Cole, but his transformation from horse to human is captured on camera. This not only gives Cole’s boss blackmail material, but also creates the need to warn the horse shifter council of the threat to their anonymity. The existence of shifters is a closely guarded secret, one they will go to great lengths to keep.

Guest Reviewer: Fantasy Living

Hoofbeats was a very unique experience for me. Horse shifter Derek Dancing Hawk was unique. I liked him as a character but I felt he was disconnected and naive about the community he belonged to. I didn’t quite understand how the community worked. There was talk of training as a boy, to become a guardian to wild horses, about how close he was with his grandmother, but there still seemed to be a disconnect between the family members, like once you were trained up, you were on your own, unless there was trouble, and then suddenly you were staring at shifter enforcers who would kill you because you did something wrong. It didn’t really gel with me. Some work on the world building was needed for me to understand the why’s of it all.

The relationship between Cole and Derek started off well while Derek was stuck in Horse form. I loved the dream sharing. That was really cool. I liked the reactions Cole had when he awoke and realised what was going on. It allowed the story to progress with the relationship building, without it seeming weird. It also allowed for information sharing, and backstory, without it turning into a flashback scenario that could potentially stall the story. Once Derek was able to shift to human again, I felt the relationship building grind to a halt.

Something that really irritated me was the internal monologuing. I prefer paraphrasing when reading internal dialogue, or short internal dialogue, accompanied by paraphrasing; not internal monologues. It caused the story to drag for me until they were able to communicate, and still it didn’t really end. It was thrown in every now and then. I didn’t like it at all. Without it, the story would have been much better.

The plot was decent. I didn’t love it, but it was acceptable. There were other ways the characters could have met, but I accept it for what it is.

The weird wife of the owner was … weird. I hope the authors are going somewhere with her, because it felt like an entire sub-plot was being developed but never fully made it to the light. I think it would have added an edge if that was developed further.

All in all I think this story was interesting. I enjoyed the bits and pieces of Native-American folklore thrown in to tie things together in this world. As an Australian, I don’t know a lot about this indigenous culture, but enough to understand the references that were made. I think there could have been more, and maybe if this turns into a series, or other stories are created with this same world, some additional work on the cultural, spiritual, and traditional aspects of the shifter community would help to take it to the next level.

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Buy on Dreamspinner Press

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