Story Rating: 5 out of 5 paddles
Sting Factor (kink): 5 out of 5
A sort-of sequel to a book I have not read, this stands alone perfectly, so there’s no need to fret about order. You can just grab it up. Now.
Her Grace’s Stable is expert and satisfying blend of erotic pony play, character development, and emotional drama. Joely Sue Burkhart brings clarity and gentle humor to what is very professional prose, all in the service of a story that will keep the reader aching, yearning, and delightfully uncertain. It’s a page-turner that compels attention, a harsh but loving mistress with a heart of gold, and whatever you spend on it, it’s worth it.
If you are into pony play at all, you need this book.
The interpersonal, romantic angle of the plot is incredibly satisfying. Lady Blackmyre’s love for Cole and his love for her is obvious, the terrible secret she is holding from him is heartbreaking. Their interactions are convincing, warm, human. The connection between Cole and Arthur is real and immediate, and is one of the more touching elements of the story. Rather than being hurt by his mistress’ interest in another pony, or jealous of Arthur, he acts out of love: the desire to help both of them away from their obvious suffering. And the growing bond between Lady Blackmyre and Arthur is really something to see. He is nothing like Cole, and so there’s no question of him being a replacement. It’s a different love, and it follows its own rough course.
Burkhart has accomplished something extraordinary here: a genuine ménage story, one where everyone loves everyone else, and the reader likes and identifies with everyone equally. I found myself drawn to each character for different reasons.
She has also accomplished another feat in Arthur’s character: an alpha male who is not a narcissistic, pushy ass, and who also bottoms and eventually submits, rather than being depicted as unilaterally dominant. It’s something all too rare in erotica; unfortunate, because it’s fucking delicious. I genuinely got lightheaded at a couple of points, and more than once, his unexpected behavior genuinely surprised me – but in a way that was perfect for the plot and only deepened his character. Just perfect.
Burkhart nails the Black Duchess’ headspace . . . that combination of desire and necessary detachment. She is never, ever cold, and never cruel, only aloof, only firm. She loves her ponies. She loves working with them, training them. She knows she’s helping them, and she treasures them, the way one should treasure a companion. It’s not all about her; it’s about them, too. About the connections people make with one another, how different they can be, and how tangled and beautiful. Burkhart evokes the appeal of pony play, and pet play in general, in a way that both fulfills and transcends the fetish. Even if you aren’t into pony play, just give this a try.
The story is sharp and well-paced, the writing tight, the sex is electric and the anticipation even more so. At several points I genuinely feared the book would disappoint me by either ending badly or by simply failing to pony up the goods – yes, I went there – and glossing over or leaving out certain scenes that, by the end, I was desperate to see. I am happy to say it satisfied me, and then some.
As far as kinks go, this does precisely what it says on the tin: pony play with whips and bridles, pony-tail butt plugs, contests of wills. The boys do fuck each other. (Thank god.) In retrospect, there’s more kink and less out-and-out sex, but while reading it, that did not even occur to me, and the kinky stuff is so flat-out sexy that it in no way detracted from the enjoyment. The kinky no-genitals-touching bits are, all alone, hotter than most books ever get. Thankfully, there is a good deal of rough sex here. Really, really good rough sex. And lots of chewy, tasty anguish. My love of angst had several multiple orgasms, I think, but the book did not leave me in a bad place, making it just about perfect.
Well-done, all around. Very well-done.
Reviewed by Naamah