Author: Juliana Haygert
Publish Date: April 14th, 2013
“Horses, mansions, tea parties, and lies are twenty-year-old Hannah Taylor’s life. To others, her family and her relationship with Eric is perfect. But she knows the truth. She lives it.
After a fire takes her grandma's life and kills her horse, Hannah's immaculate life spirals out of control. Her father disapproves of her decision to run her grandma’s ranch instead of focusing solely on learning the family business; Animal Control brings her Argus, a mistreated horse that she can't turn away even though she's not ready for another horse; and her boyfriend, Eric Bennett, a world famous polo player, becomes possessive and authoritarian. Despite her best efforts to disguise it, Hannah grows wary of him.
Then, Leonardo Fernandes struts onto the polo scene. A cocky rookie with a messy life of his own, he’s drawn to Hannah and isn’t afraid of showing it, even when Eric makes it clear she is his and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Hannah suffers for Eric’s jealousy. The abuse only gets worse when Leo steals the title of best polo player in the world from Eric.
But the title isn’t enough for Leo. He wants Hannah too, and she can’t deny her attraction to him either. Somehow, she must find a way to break free from abusive Eric before he breaks every bone in her body.”
Breaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert puts a fresh twist on a cliche New Adult storyline. I know that this might not be the case with all NA romances, but, to me, the genre seems filled with interchangeable plots and characters. It's the reason I don't read New Adult as much as I read other genres. But, Haygert's story of a girl before she's able to escape her past and start a new life caught my attention. And I'm glad it did.
Stories about wealthy southern families, horses, and bad boys have always held a certain allure to me, and Breaking the Reins delivered in a way that had me turning the pages late into the night. Hannah is a strong female character who refuses to give into the men around her and who fights for what she believes is right, whether that's running her grandma's ranch or rehabilitating an abused horse. It doesn't take long until we see Hannah's life unraveling, but by the time she catches on will it already be too late to save herself and the ranch she loves?
Reading about Hannah being in an abusive relationship made it difficult for me to connect to her in some ways. I understand her being in a relationship with a man who slowly becomes more and more abusive as time passes, it's easy to miss certain signs, but blatantly ignoring them is another thing. To say you didn't realize your boyfriend had a temper when all you ever do is try not to get on the wrong side of it is ridiculous. It's not that people aren't blind to their loved one's flaws, but it made it hard for me to like Hannah at times, especially because as a reader, I knew what kind of man Eric was. It was hard to remind myself Hannah might not be connecting the same dots I was.
I imagine Hannah's constant back and forth over staying with Eric or leaving, loving him or finding new love with someone else, is pretty realistic to someone in her situation. Eric doesn't start out terribly abusive. Although the signs are always there, it's easier for her to justify them at first. But with that mindset, as the behavior progresses, so do Hannah's excuses for not leaving. He has a problem, she needs to make sure he gets help for his temper, etc. Eventually, when Eric's behavior got of control, Hannah's reason to stay with him was flimsy at best. It was the one part of the book that really got on my nerves because it just didn't seem reasonable. Hannah seemed like a smarter character then to fall for such a stupid threat. But, Haygert's storytelling won me over in the end and I liked how she brought everything together, even if it did come off more like a Lifetime movie than something that might happen in real life. But that's fine by me, since I happen to like Lifetime movies.
Throughout the novel a romance does develop between Hannah and the new-in-town Brazilian polo player, Leo. I liked Leo, right from the start. I liked how, even though there was instant attraction on both of their parts, the romance was more of an undercurrent to the story. It was there and sizzling hot when it needed to be, but it wasn't forced in there just to turn up the heat factor.
Breaking the Reins deals with a lot of tough subjects such as domestic abuse, animal cruelty and violence. There is also some sexual content that definitely makes this one for the older crowd. If you enjoy New Adult romances than I highly suggest Breaking the Reins. You won't be sorry, and you just might come away with a newfound interest in horses... and the beautiful cowboys who love them!
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