Desperate to make money to help pay off his brother’s gambling debts, Jesse joins the “iron bandits” gang of train robbers. They’re a ruthless bunch, but once he falls in with them, Jesse is trapped. The gang is just about to pull off another heist when they’re intercepted by a group of lawmen lead by the centaur sheriff of Stallion Ridge. The rest of the outlaws escape, but Jesse is captured and hauled off to the jail in Stallion Ridge, where he seems destined to the gallows. His only hope seems to be trying to charm Sheriff Calhoun, which comes easily to the young man, who has to tamp down his own attraction to the centaur to make his escape.
“Heartaches & Hoofbeats” does an excellent job of setting up a situation where it seems impossible for the two main characters to get together, and probably not even advisable. Jesse is quite a character, a bad boy who wants to be good but keeps making bad life choices. He’s definitely a charmer, who knows it.
Cal is also a classic western hero, a stoic man with ghosts in his past and a sense of honor that runs deep. That honor comes into direct opposition to his attraction to the outlaw locked up in his jail. Relying as they do on classic archetypes, both main characters are quite well drawn and believable in their own right.
I’m not much of a fan of westerns, but this ofbeat fantasy set in a world based on the old west is a good read. The pace is a bit measured, but there’s enough action supplied by Jesse’s attempts to escape his fate to keep the story moving. There is also a rich set of secondary characters, some of whom apparently play leading roles in further installments of the series.
“Heartaches & Hoofbeats” is available from Amazon.