Breaking the Reins - Juliana Haygert

After Hannah’s grandmother and beloved horse died in a fire that wiped out the barn, she inherits the ranch and manages it whilst attending college and keeping up appearances with the rich polo crowd her boyfriend Eric is involved in. Then Argus appears – battered and tortured, he’s in need of a whisperer to help him recover, and Hannah doesn’t think she’s up to the job – until she meets Leo, Eric’s polo rival, Brazilian, and magic with horses. Hannah finds herself attracted to Leo, but Eric needs her more than ever, and she has to choose between her own life or following the reins someone else has put on her.

 

That summary is a little poetic, but that’s how I felt about the novel. It’s also about domestic abuse. It’s no secret from the first time we meet Eric that he’s going to be bad news, even though he’s a loving, doting boyfriend. He’s a textbook psychopath and Hannah falls into textbook domestic abuse. Why doesn’t she leave him? Why doesn’t she stand up for herself? Why does she take him back? These are all questions that ALL domestic abuse survivors have been asked, and I feel that Haygert really explains quite well exactly how Hannah feels and why she continues in an abusive relationship despite the obvious danger. He doesn’t start out horrible, and it develops nicely (ugh, you know what I mean) as a plot, and it’s very well balanced. Hannah loves him, and although he wants her to give up college, sell the ranch and marry him, that’s not what she wants.

 

That aside, let’s talk about nice things. Argus is wonderful, an untrusting white stallion who was horrifically abused by his previous owner and is now recovering with Hannah’s help. The progress is painfully slow, but Argus comes through just when you need him to. I loved him, even if he wasn’t the perfect horse like Midnight from Breaking Fences. Leo was pretty awesome as well, although I couldn’t approve of Hannah making out with him while she was still in a relationship with Eric, even if Eric was a complete tosspot.

Part of me wishes Hannah had come to Leo and his brothers for help earlier, rather than try to sort out her own problems, because what could be hotter than four athletic Brazilian men showing up at your ranch to teach your abusive boyfriend a lesson? Well, that’s not what I got, but a girl can dream. I was actually really happy with the way the novel wrapped everything up.

 

Don’t read this looking for info on how much work it really takes to look after a horse, because although Hannah gets up early and works hard to look after her horses, she and her stablehand seem to be able to tack up a whole class’s worth in no time at all, when in reality tacking up a horse takes a lot of time and work, as you need to brush them with several different brushes both before and after riding, and clean their hooves. 10-20 minutes for each horse? Before and after the ride? It’s a LOT of work that I don’t think was necessarily represented accurately in this book. I thought it was really weird how Hannah’s team did all the work tacking up the horses for classes rather than making the students do it. But if you’re not looking for horse care, you probably won’t care about details like that.

 

I read Breaking Fences first, and in my opinion this is the better book. I feel that Breaking the Reins was more intense, more enjoyable, with more conflict, even though I loved Bia’s relationship with Midnight. I might feel that way just because I read them out of order, though. Maybe if I read Breaking the Reins first, I would have appreciated the relative sweetness of Breaking Fences more, the uncomplicated plot, the more relaxed style. Maybe it would have been a welcome reprieve from the heartbreak of Breaking the Reins, I don’t know.

 

All I know is that I’m pretty keen for a third Breaking book. Hannah’s sister Hilary, perhaps?