Sunday, October 19, 2014

Broken Gait by Kate Pavelle

Title: Broken Gait
Author: Kate Pavelle
Purchase at Dreamspinner
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Genre: contemporary
Length: 236 pages, 77k words
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf, print

Attila Keleman can find no flaw in Kai’s work at his stables. Three months later, toiling side by side, Attila is smitten. Proud of his new partner, Attila wants to introduce them as a couple at an upcoming horse show. First, however, he has to conquer his demon. Attila can’t stand crowds of people, and a horse shows means just that. Grandpa Keleman can’t help him with his crippling social anxiety from afar. Attila turns to his horse, Sen. His equine partner is trained to help him through the most difficult panic attacks. With Sen and Kai by his side, Attila knows he can risk everything and emerge out of his comfort zone.

Kai agrees to do the show only to help Attila out of his shell. Once there, the press are all over them. Kai’s personality and looks results in media buzz and modeling offers—while Attila falls apart when Sen goes lame. Unable to deal with the pressure, Attila is convinced Kai would be a fool not to flee for greener pastures. Meanwhile, Kai is hell-bent on showing Attila his weakness is also his greatest strength—even if it means resorting to deception.
This is the third of the Steel City novels. Having read them out of order, I can say confidently that doing so works, and which you’d choose depends on your mood. Broken Gait is a character driven novel of consolidation, while the first Kai and Attila story, Wild Horses, (review to follow) has more adventure to it. Jack and Wyatt from Zipper Fall have the tiniest of cameos here, and the connection is mostly in the location.

The author brings us up to speed on Kai and Attila in snips and details, enough to establish what we as readers need to know about what happened before in order to enjoy and understand this story. We find them here already a couple, but still on shaky ground with each other and with themselves. By the end of the book, they’ve found their footing.

Attila’s shocking (to Kai, it was more ^^ to me, but that’s for the Wild Horses review to come) revelation about how he deals with people is the driver for this story. He’s reserved and formal, which keeps people at a distance. Crowds and other high stimulus environments tax him deeply, a major cause of his leaving high-level dressage competition. Because he believes in doing the best for his students, which includes Kai, he forces himself back to the competition. They couldn’t have picked a worse time: a hurricane threatens to drown the show site or blow it out to Bermuda.

Kai, who is 25 and at last reads it, is the hit of the show. Tall, muscular, handsome with his flowing red hair, charming and a natural horseman, Kai and his equally gorgeous and unruly stallion Cayenne are the hit of the show, and all eyes are upon him. Kai isn’t quite sure how much he wants to capitalize on this or how, and the attention to him worries Attila. What can he offer Kai that’s this heady?

Where initially Kai was the uncertain one, in this story Attila has the graver doubts about his ability to keep Kai interested, and Kai’s more worried about being able to fit into horse-y society, given his coal-mining roots. He wants to do Attila proud and also protect him, which leads to some huge gaffes.

The story remains low key, as they two have to sort out how they fit together and what kind of accommodations they need to make to keep Attila functioning, all against the backdrop of the endless stable chores. When Attila’s beloved horse falls ill with no guarantees of recovery, it devastates him, and it’s all Kai can do to keep the stables going while Attila falls apart.

Here we spend more time in Attila’s head, seeing and hearing the world as he does, which made me think Asperger’s syndrome, something confirmed much later by reading the blurb to the first book. (I said I did this out of order! And that it didn’t create a problem.) Kai’s loving and helpful, and there to be a rock of support. He frets that he doesn’t know enough practical horse matters to really pull his weight, but time and experience will fix that, even though he needs it like, last week.

Attila also has the chance to bond with his brother in law Tibor as part of his coming to terms with what he perceives are his flaws. Attila’s family are vivid characters, his nephews especially are young men finding their true selves, and Kai’s acceptance into the family spans both books.

The winds and rain setting seemed to build up to the kind of action adventure we’re accustomed to from this author, but it’s more a nuisance in the background and reflector of Attila’s moods. The thrust of the story is definitely how Kai and Attila get past their insecurities. Given Attila’s need for structure and repetition, something that makes him extremely good with his horses, I was prepared to forgive the frequent “honey” and other endearments. (This usually drives me bonkers but it’s characterization for something other than twu lub. So maybe only a quarter bonkers this time.) Attila's voice has a quirky formality, which suggests both Eastern European roots and his need for precision and control. Kai's voice wobbles more, sometimes with a hint of his roots and more often as standard American, which seems like a wasted opportunity. His one full-out moment of going all Attila on someone's ass made me chuckle, as he used his lover's mannerisms to convey his Deepest Disapproval.

The arcs here were for Kai and his confidence, and for Attila and his confidence and coping. They learn and grow in themselves and each other. These two fit well together, and their H looks like it will be EA. 4 marbles

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