Set in rural Colorado in the early 1870s, Charlene Whitman’s Wild Horses, Wild Hearts is a short introduction to the characters in her series The Front Range, which continues with Colorado Hope.
The novella is set in an area rich in farmland and ranches, and separately follows Eli and Clare, who inevitably fall for each other. The couple meet in the wilderness while Eli is tracking wild horses and Clare (and her wild heart) is out looking for her missing younger brother. Eli’s mother has a vision of their meeting and makes sure her son is ready.
“Plenty of wild horses,” his ma said, stirring, her back to him. “Wild hearts too.” Wild hearts? What on God’s earth was she talking about? Was that a good thing? “Some — they need to run wild, stay wild,” she said over the soft sounds of soup bubbling. “Others,” she added a bit louder, “need to be roped in. Takes some work, but it’s worth doin’.”
The author has added in slightly more than just the standard ‘boy meets girl’ story line, as each of the main characters has their own problems to deal with, but in so few pages there’s not much that can be developed. And no matter what else is going on or what danger they’re in, we’re constantly reminded of the attraction between our soon-to-be-couple.
His face was set in a snarl, but even though he was annoyed with her, she couldn’t help feeling a powerful attraction to that hard-set jaw and eyes that drilled deep into hers. His unruffled courage made her esteem him all the more.
The love story is front and centre throughout the book. Perhaps it’s standard for romance novels or maybe this one just outdoes itself, but I couldn’t help but feel the corniness level was off the charts. Both Eli and Clare felt uncontrollable love very early into their meeting, despite other grievances they felt about each other, and their inner dialogues and feelings was often over the top. The ranching metaphors were also off the scale.
Eli threw her a smile, hoping to lasso her with it. From the look on her face, he’d hit true.
Having been written after the rest of the series, the characters feel well-rounded, but the inclusion of some story arcs, such as who Eli meets on his journey home, make it seem like they’ve been included to please those who have already read the rest of the books, rather than for those who might be interested in reading more.
However, the novella is a good way to test the waters with the clean flow of Whitman’s writing and there’s a good chance that if you like this intro then you’ll love the rest of the series.