Everyone thinks A.J. Sutherland is crazy to buy a rogue stallion that no rider or trainer has been able to tame. But if anybody has the hustle to make something out of that hell-raiser, it’s A.J. She can’t do it alone, however, so she goes after the great Devlin McCloud, an equestrian legend with a bad leg-and worse attitude.
Devlin recognizes a fighter when he sees one-and that horse isn’t a wallflower, either. Before he knows it, he’s got a wild stallion in his empty stable and a hotheaded, heavenly-bodied rider sleeping on his couch. But can he get all three of them through the championship in one piece? The passion he’s found with his rider is compromising training-and at this level of competition, any distraction is not just unprofessional but downright deadly.
I really liked this book. It was just so… nice. I know, the word “nice” doesn’t usually inspire much enthusiasm, but after the ups and downs of the Fever series and the aggravation caused by Atlantis Rising, Leaping Hearts acted as a bit of a palate cleanser. It wasn’t too heavy, it didn’t have a complex story line, and it had a couple who knew they were into one another right off the bat. So yes, this book was nice. This book was written by the one and only spectacular, amazing J.R Ward. I trust that all of you know who she is, but for those of you who don’t (for shame!) I’ll fill you in: She is the author of one of my favourite series in the whole history of the world: the Black Dagger Brotherhood. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and do so. Right now. But, bear in mind, that Leaping Hearts was nothing like any of the WARDen’s later books. This one had virtually no swearing, there is no crash-boom-bang action and the sex is of the fade-to-black variety. So it’s not typically my kind of thing but… I really enjoyed it. It was wholesome, you know? Simple and uncomplicated.
Leaping Hearts is the story of A.J. Sutherland and Devlin McCloud. A.J. is a talented young equestrian who has just bought herself a horse named Sabbath, a beautiful stallion who looks like he was born to win championships. There’s just one little problem: this horse makes Charlie Sheen look well-behaved. Sabbath throws his riders, won’t let a blacksmith anywhere near him, and absolutely hates water. So, obviously, you do not want to take this horse to a competition. But A.J. sees potential in Sabbath. She’s convinced that with some TLC and the proper training, she can take Sabbath to the Qualifier in two months time and win. But then A.J. hits a bit of a speed bump. Not only does she have to deal with a stubborn horse, but now she has to deal with her impossible step-brother. A.J. lives at home and trains in the family-run stables. She runs the side of the business that deals with the actual horses, and her step-brother deals with the financial side of things. The pain in the butt step-brother sees exactly what everyone else sees when he looks at Sabbath: a wild, uncontrollable animal that’s more trouble than it’s worth. He throws his weight around and it’s decided that A.J. can’t keep the horse at the stables. A.J. knows that her family was hoping to get her to give up on her crazy plans, but she isn’t having any of it. Sabbath isn’t an impulse buy for A.J.; he’s her chance to prove herself. She decides that if her horse isn’t welcome, then she won’t stay there either. Except… now she’s gone from one big problem to three. She’s got a rebellious horse to train and nowhere to sleep or carry out said training.
Enter Devlin McCloud. Devlin is a hugely reclusive former equestrian champion. After an equestrian accident that saw his leg terribly injured and his horse having to be put down, he’s decided that he’s through with all things horse-related. He and A.J. had met at the auction where she’d bought Sabbath, so he knows she’s on embarking on her own version of Mission Impossible. But he never expected her to come to him for help. Devlin is so not keen. Bad enough that he would have to deal with a temperamental horse, but to have to train a woman who he is totally jonesing for? Nuh-uh. Way more than one man should have to deal with. And yet somehow, despite his protests, A.J. ends up living in his house and training in his stables.
The book carries on from there in a fairly predictable manner, with all the traditional ups and downs, but it was just… nice. I know I bitched about that word yesterday, but here it was a good thing. So if you’re looking for something light and fluffy to read, something sweet but not toothache-inducing, I would recommend Leaping Hearts.