Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thorns by Feliz Faber

Title: Thorns
Author: Feliz Faber
Purchase at Dreamspinner
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Genre: contemporary, sports, interracial
Length: 240 pages
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf, print

How can love between two men possibly be responsible for a horse’s death during the Kentucky Derby? Reporter Will Yeats wants to know the truth.

Seventeen years ago, a love affair between a jockey and a horse trainer and a tragic accident on the racetrack scandalized the horseracing world. But Nic Pithiviers and Louis Meerow seem to have no desire to set the record straight: they refuse the interview and send attorney Francis LeBon to question Will’s motives.

Francis has a special place in his heart for Nic and Louis, who taught him to take pride in himself as a gay man, and he’ll stop at nothing to protect them from a gossipmongering reporter. However, Francis doesn’t expect the reporter’s honesty and genuine determination to exonerate two men falsely accused… or the growing attraction to Will he feels.

While visiting with Nic and Louis at their horse training center in France, Will uncovers a web of intrigue, secrets, and old lies, and he unwittingly sets a series of perilous events into motion that not only threaten to destroy his budding relationship with Francis, but Nic and Louis’s decades-long commitment as well.


Fans of Dick Francis will delight in a racing based novel, and fans of mm romance will appreciate that instead of 12 pages of the hero getting beaten up, we have the MC getting smexed up by a hot lawyer.

Will, the reporter, is put off balance by Francis, the lawyer sent to warn him off investigating the decades old accident and the two men who took the brunt of the scandal. Falling hard where he’s never given his heart, Will reminds himself that it might not be mutual. Francis is a hard one to read—while he’s there, he seems very into Will, and when he’s on the other side of the ocean, he’s very, very absent.

Nic the trainer and Louis the jockey have old secrets, some of which they share, some they hide from one another. They’re delightful, complex, and both loving and strangely fragile. Given they had more screen time than Will has with Francis, they nearly stole the show. Their stables, La Thillaye, is financially shaky, and they are justifiably worried by the string of incidents that peck away at their resources.

Will’s POV lasts from beginning to end, and Francis is absent physically and emotionally for much of the story, which made the external plot of the old disaster and the current training and racing schedule seem much more important than the romance. Will is both a guest and a nuisance at the stables, but finds ways to make himself useful. I particularly liked his intervention with a track official.

A few of the conflicts were the sort that could have been solved with one sentence of clarification before they became traumatic, which bothered me, but with those as immutable events, how both Will and Francis coped was understandable, even if one or both of them should have been smacked upside the head. Neither one is entirely clear on what is business, what is personal, and if those two spheres intersect, or if that should matter.

The secondary characters were vivid and interesting, each with a part of the story to advance. The setting was lovely—the stables redolent of horses and lads calling to each other in French, the town of Deauville with its beach umbrellas and sassy denizens, and the track, where so much rides on the fragile cannon bones of the thoroughbreds.

I was disturbed by the flirtation between Louis and Will—while some attraction was understandable, the degree seemed to go beyond appropriate. Nothing came of it, fortunately. Another diversion in another direction was only the product of a lonely man who's been offered no commitment. One culprit was a little too easy or Dick Francis has me too well trained, but when asking cui bono? it helps if there’s more than one cui to bono. The long ago mystery had more threads to unravel.

The book was smooth and enjoyable, in a setting that went beyond the mundane. I was left with hope for Will and Francis, who did finally get his head out of his butt with a resounding pop, and for Nic and Louis, who have a new phase of their life together to explore. I wish them all happiness, fast horses, and well groomed tracks. 4 marbles

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