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Publisher's Summary

Carivel was born female, but she has been secretly living as a boy for years in her adoptive village of Draebard. The last thing she needs is to fall for not one but two unattainable men - a dominating warrior and a reluctant wolf-shifter with a horrific past. Now the Alyrion Empire is poised to invade, and Carivel must choose whether to keep her secret or reveal it - not only to the men she loves but also to the powerful female ruler whose army could help protect Draebard during the coming war.

Steamy and spellbinding, The Horse Mistress, Book 1 combines detailed world building and a heartfelt romance between three noble, damaged people who have no one to turn to but each other.

Author's note: This book contains descriptions of graphic sex, including sex between men, sex with multiple partners (MMF), and elements of fully consensual BDSM within a loving, established relationship. Additionally, it deals with issues of gender identity and gender fluidity. It is intended for a mature audience.

©2015 R. A. Steffan (P)2016 R. A. Steffan

What listeners say about The Horse Mistress, Book 1

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Character-driven fantasy

I finished listening to this story a few days ago, and I had to give myself time to consider my best response. The short answer is that I *really* liked this story. It has a lot of elements that shouldn’t work, and yet it does quite well.

The plot of the story is that our 3 lead characters are all important people in their village. When the village gets attacked, they got to a neighbor to recruit help for the war that is sure to come. Each of them shows strength and weaknesses with each other and with the new political allies. By being their best and truest selves, they secure the aid they need.

The trio of characters are what is interesting here, and the author handles them all sensitively.
*Carivel is the titular Horse Mistress, someone who has been living as a male to be able to do the job she loves, one that would be forbidden to her as a woman. This isn’t merely a matter of historical cross-dressing. Carivel uses female pronouns in the privacy of her relationship with Andoc and Senovo, but in her own mind she feels mostly male.
*Andoc is the warrior who is very skilled, yet he is also one of the most caring characters. He makes sure Carivel and Senovo eat, and he is tender and sympathetic beyond his outer braggart persona.
*Senovo is the eunuch priest who turns into a wolf. Only Andoc’s care can give him the relief he craves. In this installment, he saves Carivel, and I predict that in later sequels, he may learn to live comfortably (or at less odds) with his inner wolf.

Steffan shows a relationship here about people who shouldn’t have found each other or care about each other. Carivel can’t believe it because it seems like such and impossibility. The thing is that it works very well. The relationship, while new to all of them, feels believable. It’s in what they say and do, and it seems very plausible that they could form a healthy trio.

I have to say here that I have not read many ménage or polyamory stories. I posit that they must be different since the few ménage stories I’ve read seem more focused on the sex and how hot it all is. It comes across to me as very shallow and just an excuse to see how many interesting ways we can connect tabs and slots A, B, C, etc.

That’s not what happens here. There is a very graphic (and quite instructional) sex scene, yes, but the story still feels like it’s more about the love relationship with the characters. They will stand by and support each other whether or not a physical act is involved.

As for the elements here that shouldn’t work but do… We have consensual BDSM, that makes sense with the characters. Senovo chooses to be restrained to control his wolf. We have realistic and honest talks about gender identity. They aren’t long or with hard to understand language. They just admit to a person who is trying to figure it out. The warrior, who would normally be a toxic masculine stereotype, is sympathetic to that and doesn’t care about body parts because he likes the person Carivel is. All of this is wrapped up in a fantasy setting. I never thought I’d see these elements together working so well. It’s a little like the Hamilton musical—objectively crazy in premise but an absolute success in execution.

I would also like to interject here that Steffan herself is a horse expert. She explains things in easily understandable ways, and for my own development as a writer, I feel the need to take notes! (I have my own trio story in the works involving a female horse expert and a male wolf shifter.)

As to the narration since I had this as an audiobook, the narrator was excellent. The story is told from Carivel’s first person point of view, but there are a few times when Andoc is talking with his mouth full. Those passages of dialogue actually sound like he’s talking with his mouth full. She uses other acting tricks so that it’s more than just a story read out loud, but it’s as exciting as a radio play.

I don’t always become a writer or narrator’s fan after a free (e/audio)book, but in this case that I am. Upon finishing this book, I immediately wanted to listen to the rest of the series on audiobook. As I write this review, they aren’t available yet, but please make haste in getting them ready. I definitely want to scoop them up, and I’m better with audio than I am with ebooks.

Disclaimer: This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of Audiobook Blast.

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent

The Horse Mistress is an intriguing sort of medieval tribal fantasy with a gender fluid MC. Carivel was born with a female body but identifies primarily as male who likes men, with occasional feminine moments. Carivel is an accomplished horse trainer and has to be seen as male to work with horses, though neighboring tribes have different views on gender roles. There’s potentially a threesome developing between Carivel, the lead warrior Andoc, and a reluctant wolf-shifter/priest, Senovo (priests aren’t celibate in this world but they’re eunuchs). The world building is fascinating.

The world reminds me a little bit of Jean Auel’s The Clan of The Cavebear and Tamara Pierce’s Alanna The Lioness. They’re really very different stories but they all have protagonists who were born female and challenge gender norms. Although Carivel, as I’ve said earlier, doesn’t identify as female most of the time, so this is more about being ones true self.

As with Aeul’s world, sex is viewed as a natural, even sacred thing. Aeul had trusted older people initiate young adults into the sexual world. Here, priests offer sexual and relationship counseling and are often someone’s first sexual experience. Senovo is

Andoc is a complete flirt, but he never even touched Carivel without permission. Consent is always present.

Senovo and Carivel both have baggage and their back stories are revealed somewhat. Senovo was sold into the priesthood and his castration was extremely traumatic. His sensitive, poetic soul doesn’t deal well with being a wolf shifter. Andoc holds a safe space for him. Part of that is bondage of a sort that resembles Japanese Kinbaku: rope bondage that helps him feel safe so he can surrender to Andoc being alpha and let go of the wolffish urges.

These three do eventually become a threesome but it’s a very slow burn, with lots of character and relationship development against the backdrop of their home being attacked and looking for potential allies from a female-lead tribe.

The sex is very sensitively handled. It’s explicit without being overwrought. There’s some m/m sexual situations in the beginning, a ritual public marriage ceremony, and long, steamy, consensual sex scene between the threesome at the end.

This is an excellent fantasy novel with a well-developed polyamorous relationship in a fascinating world. I look forward to continuing the series.

I really liked the narrator, she did a great job with all the character voices.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Great Premise but Needs More Action

"The Horse Mistress: Book 1" is a short nonbinary romance novel with some fantasy elements. All of the action and tension scenes, especially those with animals like horses and wolves, are all really well done. I wanted to see more of those!

I appreciated the LGBTQ+ elements in this story, especially when the main protagonist is explaining what she likes sexually and how she sees herself most of the time. Even in our own world, where there is official and developing terminology by which we have to describe different realities of being, individuals still struggle with personal identity and acceptance. It is refreshing to read a fantasy tale such as this, where these elements are explored and so true to our own lives.

I was pleasantly surprised that this had more story to it than I had been expecting. While the introductory content warning might be important for shooing away homophobes, I think the implication that this is a porno book does this work a disservice. While those moments are central to the second half of this book, I quite enjoyed all of the world building and thought that went into this setting.

This is obviously a series, so I understand why there are some unresolved elements to the plot. However, I wish more of the action in the world had been resolved, and a little of the romance unresolved. The romance is all wrapped up, with everyone happy with each other, and I don't see it growing from there without mishaps coming across as character regression.

Overall, this is a fun escapist listen, with elements that I relate to. Especially the horses! We are only given background about the world when it serves the plot, which is something I need to work on in my own fantasy writing. We do NOT need to know the geopolitical history of the entire continent in order to enjoy this tale.

I recommend to those interested in: fantasy, romance, horses, wolves, shape shifters, LGBTQ+, bdsm, threesomes, nonbinary characters, cross dressing, trans men, and Iron Age warrior village life.

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More please.

I wasnt expecting this to be anything other than the usual erotica book, mostly juicy sex with a thin plotline. Boy was I in for a surprise. Amazing plot, well researched and thought out, along with a trip into a mindset that most people dont get to understand, brilliantly explained. The narrator was perfect for the book in my opinion.

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Very Excellent

To begin with the narration was superb, I truly give a standing ovation to the narrator. I don't read many fantasies, but this one was the most romantic and the most erotic of them all. My favorite part was when the Horse Mistress went to another village with the Priest and the Warrior and was called to tame a so-called beast of a horse that could not be tamed. So Good! Thank You R. A. Steffan for sharing this story.

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Happy threesome romance

It's the kind of book with a lot of technical detail on horse training (and other things) and a great deal of cheerful, kinky, polyamorous smut. If you like the kind of story where they avoid relationship problems because of misunderstandings or philosophical differences and instead find people who they like, and who like them back, give this one a try.

My only problem is that it's a bit short - it feels like the first third of a novel instead of a standalone. (Fortunately, the rest of the trilogy is out and reasonably priced.)

The reader is good, and her Andoc-voice, warm, confident, and perpetually amused, is a thing of great beauty.

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Yum

Enjoyed this story. Caravelle's story is filled with steamy scenes with a wonderful storyline to go with. I'm looking forward to find out what happens next.

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awesome

loved it... narrative was very good as well.. can't wait to read the next one

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Great World

Any additional comments?

Most stories don't spend the time on building the culture around the characters that this one did. The people in this book had a interesting culture and religion, including the belief that girls cannot work with horses. I also enjoyed the interaction between the three characters, though there was less sex then I was expecting, considering the warnings involved. I got this book in exchange for a review.

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The Horse Mistress

This was a ok book. It took me a while to finish. I will not be reading the rest of the series.

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  • grantc
  • 11-21-19

very graphic sex. deleted.

disappointed with extremely graphic sex descriptions. deleted book and will not be buying anything else from this author. I was interested in story line, but sex too graphic for me, but if that's what floats your boat.....