Ace of Hearts by Caitlin Ricci: 2/10 Stars

 

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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.

 

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Overall Rating: 2/10 stars

Leigh’s Review: 1/5 Stars

I was pretty excited about this book when it came out. It involves horses and a puppy, which are two of my favorite things. It has an asexual character and a trans character. That is awesome! Unfortunately the execution of the story was not great.

At the beginning, show-jumping champion Ashton is living alone on a farm which his mysteriously-rich busybody mother has bought for him. Right off the bat, I found Ashton unlikeable. He’s depressed after losing his champion horse in an accident, which is completely reasonable, but there are moments where a really pompous and conceited personality shows through. He sees his neighbor driving a “rusty piece of crap” and thinks about how he has a shiny new truck that he won from a competition. It feels really shitty and judgmental.

The relationship between Ashton and Ty (our trans character) goes from “get the fuck away from me, you’re nuts” to “can we be friends?” in like five seconds flat. I think I got whiplash from it. There was no real emotion or logic in why they changed their minds. It felt forced. I could never feel or understand the characters’ motivations at any point through the whole book. Both of them tended to go on massive paragraph-long info-dump rambles that had me sitting there saying “No one on earth actually talks like this.”

As for the trans content, it was not problematic, but it wasn’t amazing either. Ty is ftm trans. He still has his period, so we can surmise he’s not on T (it’s never mentioned either way), but apparently he 100% passes as male and there’s never any question of it. Granted, that’s not impossible, but gave me pause as I read. He’d had top surgery, but boobs aren’t the only difference between masculine and feminine. Ty would still have a high voice and soft features if he hasn’t been on T at all. I understand wanting to avoid misgendering and awkward conversations in your writing, and I kind of like that Ty hadn’t been on T at all, because it seems like every contemporary trans masculine character I’ve ever read *is* on T so it’s nice to see something different, but completely ignoring the facts is no way to handle it either.

Ty’s gender ends up being overshadowed by Ashton’s asexuality and tragic backstory anyway, and honestly, the ace rep in this book kind of worried me. There was nothing factually incorrect about it, but Ashton is paranoid as fuck about any kind of physical contact. The things he says make me feel like he’s had really shitty, abusive partners his entire life. He’s almost aggressively asexual. Ty lays a hand on his leg while they’re in the car and Ashton tells him that’s okay as long as he doesn’t go trying to grab Ashton’s crotch or something. Like, Jesus, what kind of people have you been with? Horny, inconsiderate teenagers? Ty didn’t even make any indication that he might try something like that and had shown Ashton nothing but consideration and respect.

Meh. The book as a whole did nothing for me. There was only one moment where I felt any emotion at all. I couldn’t sympathize or identify with either of the characters, I didn’t care about their horses or their dog or their relationship… I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately, I didn’t.

Laura’s Review: 1/5 Stars

I feel that this book started with a nice idea that got lost somewhere in the execution. I didn’t connect with anything in it; I couldn’t get a feel of the characters and because of that I wasn’t invested in the story. The writing didn’t pull me in, and the conversations felt stilted.
I liked how the trans rep was included in the story, so matter of factly. It’s just a part of Ty’s character and it doesn’t define him. That’s the kind of rep I like best. The way he reacted to Ashton the first time he told him he was ace bothered me a bit, though. I can’t really put my finger on *why*, exactly, but having him telling Ashton that since he’s asexual he will think of Ty simply as a man was weird, and it didn’t sit well with me.
That said, the ace part of this book bothered me more than the trans part. I get that ace people can have trouble dating, and there are arseholes out there that will tell you they respect you being ace and then pressure you after a while. But to have every guy Ashton has been with fit this mold? That was quite heavy handed and to me it read as if it were perpetuating that idea that everyone needs sex and men in particular feel entitled to it when in a relationship. Maybe I was reading too much into it, but it’s how it felt to me.
And finally, this felt a bit too much like “love is the cure for depression” for my taste. And I really hate when love is suddenly a magic cure for mental health problems. It’s the worst trope ever.
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