I have a thing for animals in romance, particularly in historicals and what animal is better for this genre than horses? In Rebecca Thomas‘ delightful holiday short from Entangled Flirts, The Earl’s Christmas Colt, both the hero and heroine would rather spend time with horses than find a spouse, but duty calls.
Lady Arabella Sutton is appalled when her otherwise loving older brother informs her that he’s signed the contracts for her to marry…at the end of the week right after Christmas! She knows that she wasn’t that interested in looking for a husband in her last season, but the fact is she’d rather spend her time with her horses, especially since her father recently passed away. But now her brother informs her she’s supposed to marry some horribly old Earl (he’s four and thirty!) who will be a duke one day, as if she cares about that. Feeling betrayed, she heads out for a long ride – sans groom, thank you.
Unfortunately her lovely mare picks up a bad stone, bruising her hoof and forcing Arabella to head through a driving rain to the nearest coaching inn to get her under a dry roof to recuperate. When a handsome stable master with a gorgeous stallion and fetching colt helps her care for her mare and says he’ll help her get a room and send her brother a message, she doesn’t have a name for the strange fluttering in her chest or the tingling skin a chance touch leaves in its wake.
Oliver Westwyck, the Earl of Marsdale, is astonished that the gorgeous, wet young woman who knows horses backwards and forwards is his intended. A stray comment that hints at her disdain for dukes has him giving his mother’s maiden name instead of his own, a decision that allows him to know her a bit better but has him cringing at his deception. He simply wanted a good marriage of convenience after a disastrous engagement years ago trying to have a marriage based on love, but the more time he spends with Arabella, the more he’s worried that this woman is going to be much, much more than he’s ever experienced before. But his lie – and the bigger one perpetuated by Arabella’s brother regarding the state of the family’s finances – could come between whatever common foundation they might have laid in this stable.
I don’t usually fall for short stories with no sexy times, but this one (probably because it was an historical) absolutely charmed me. Author Rebecca Thomas is a self-confessed horse enthusiast and her knowledge and love of this noble animal shines through in her writing. There was a terrific foundation for conflict which, when combined with the sudden attraction between Oliver and Arabella, had me rapidly turning the page. I liked that the brother is well-intentioned and actually quite loving in his decision to match his reluctant sister with a good man who also loves horses. No two-dimensional villains here!
I’m super excited to read some more Rebecca Thomas who appears to be a relatively new author. Please note that this story is also available in the Entangled Flirts bundle, Twelve Days of Christmas Past, which includes not just this story but also the wonderful time-travel romance Christmas Past by Susanna Fraser which I reviewed earlier this month, as well as an additional story by Thomas and another Entangled author. At only $2.99 for four stories, that could be a post-Christmas bargain, but you can get the single story for a mere $.99 if you’d like to start just sampling this particular short. With such a wonderful example, I’ll be eagerly looking forward to her other works, historical or otherwise (and I hope they feature horses prominently).