Title: Ace of Hearts
Author: Caitlin Ricci
Series: – –
Genre: LGBTQ+ Romance
Ashton lived for show jumping, until an accident killed his horse, Atreyu, and left him unable to ride. He blames himself for Atreyu’s death and has sworn off horses. Rubbing salt in the wound, his boyfriend and friends were okay with Ashton being ace, but not with his retirement. His mom has purchased him a house with acreage in the hopes that he won’t give up on horses entirely, and a puppy, Leia, but neither is able to pull him out of his depression.
Ty lives next door, and it’s a dream come true to find his idol is his new neighbor. Ashton wants nothing to do with him, but being trans in a largely-unaccepting world has made Ty stubborn, and he’s long-used to dealing with people who are hurting, so it’s going to take more than Ashton can muster to push him away.
Source: Review copy from Less Than Three Press via NetGalley
I read the words show jumping and puppy and I couldn’t resist. Throw in a trans/ace romance and I was excited to read this. Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations. Perhaps I set them too high, but I had a few issues with the way things were set up and how they unfolded.
Firstly, the horses. Ashton is supposed to be something of a show jumping star. Enough of one that Ty watched him on TV anyway. I could fully understand why the death of his top horse, Atreyu, would have been devastating, but surely Ashton would have had more than one horse. There’s no mention of any of them. He had one horse, the horse died, he was done.
Then there’s Ty. I don’t know how long Ty lived with his grandfather, but there are photos of him as a kid around horses, yet he’s still such a terrible rider? Also, how can he possibly think of buying a young, fresh horse for jumping when he’s too scared to get on a big old friendly giant on his own? It didn’t make any sense.
Which is probably me being picky, but that’s the kind of reader I am, and it made it difficult for me to really settle into this. And those were just the minor details.
Next we come to Ty and Ashton, who were both okay on their own, but together were a disaster. Ashton is depressed and grouchy when we first meet him. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone, he doesn’t want to live, he is grieving. Ty appears and pushes and pushes and pushes some more. It doesn’t matter how often Ashton says he doesn’t want to talk about horses and especially not about Atreyu, Ty always brings horses up and often turns things back to Atreyu. It really annoyed me and I found it pretty unfathomable how these two even became friends let alone anything more. Ashton gets so annoyed at pretty much anything Ty says, yet suddenly they’re dating?
There’s also a lot of talk about Ashton’s asexuality. Which I could understand at first, because boundaries are important, but the same conversation is raised and repeated again and again and again. Ashton doesn’t trust that Ty accepts him, Ty tells him he does and quite frankly the fact that he’s trans is useful for this, Ashton thinks how great that is except, well, it won’t last. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Which not only was annoying, but Ashton’s thoughts on Ty’s body were really uncomfortable. It made it seem like their romance would work only because Ty was trans and that felt really wrong.
Throw in an ending that felt far too rushed up and a puppy that, while exceedingly cute, was just too well behaved to be true and this book sadly missed the mark for me. I loved the idea of it, but the reality just didn’t come close.
Ace of Hearts is Out Now.
Visit Caitlin Ricci for more details.