Yes, I admit I wanted to read this because the cover is beautiful and because I love horses. Just this year, as the year before and the year before it (because I'm honest I don't know when this tradition began) I put on the wall the horse calendar my grandma gifts me every Christmas. I'm not even embarrassed.
I've never read anything of Caitlin Ricci so I was prepared for everything that could happen. This is a shape-shifters story. Nohatu and Brother Mustang are two spirits: human and horse, sharing body. Nohatu is captured to be adopted and that's when Justin meets him, a ranch hand who is sent by his boss to choose a mare. But he comes back with a grey stallion with black mane instead, knowing he will possibly be fired.
The story is agile and well-paced but it was terribly confusing. It wasn't made clear to me if Brother Mustang was eager to get away from or interested in Justin, because he seemed both. The plot is not a complicated one but it didn't look that way, based on how randomly events happen. Not because lots of things occurred but because the characters' actions were illogical and hard to believe.
They don't share promises of eternal love and but I didn't expect a such a superficial relationship. They have sex just after they exchange names and I felt it was cheap and easy, with no feelings underneath. I don't understand why Nohatu/Brother Mustang are willing to become part of Justin's existence all of a sudden. To sum it up, I don't understand what they see in each other and come to the conclusion they want to stay forever together.
The tale Nohatu tells about his past had so many gaps it would have been better to leave the story of the spirits in the dark: (view spoiler) And about the present tale: how is this "gift" passed on to Justin? By fluids? Because I understand that Justin is not a shapeshifter but he can be. He has like a "genetic predisposition" and Nohatu just triggers it. But nothing is explained, things just happen and they make me even more confused. Everything is hanging in the air.
Then we find the pseudo-moral of the story. Nohatu says there are no grazings anymore and that humans are wildly responsible for that. Because before humans (non-Natives, I guess) horses used to run with bisons and all the wild animals there. False. The Spaniards came and brought the horses with them. Mustangs (or Mesteños) descend mostly from the Marismeño horse, an Andalusian breed. So this is a paradox: when Europeans came, the horses came and became a great part of the Native identity. Blaming Europeans and worshiping horses at the same time is a little contradictory to me.
Remember all those Western movies, with cowboys endangering their necks when they ventured into plains and mountains and desserts nobody else had put a foot on? Surely there had been no one before them? Remember all those Natives being masters on a horse and pursuing the cowboys or hunting bisons? Do you think it's a coincidence Andalusian people arrived and all of a sudden Natives hunted those wild bulls on horseback as if they had done it their whole lives? It's strange at least, don't you believe?
It was no "virgin" territory at all. Spaniards were there centuries of years before the Wild West stories became part of Hollywood. Even the French in Louisiana were there before the English and the expansion of the 13 colonies. This argument is deeply flawed.
All in all, this is an entertaining novella if you are just looking for something light and fun. But from my part, I'm utterly disappointed. The premise is good and it could have been a good story, but with each passing page it made less and less sense to me, becoming a mess I couldn't figure out. I don't think this story should be called romantic because I didn't see any sparkle of love. It wasn't beautiful. It wasn't sexy nor hot. I wasn't inspired by this in any sense of the word. I guess it can be considered a tale about shape-shifters, as simple as that.
PS: I was having doubts between 1 and 2 stars but after reading my review several times I've decided it gets closer to being 1.
***Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***