Why We Love

14 February 2019

On Valentine's Day, we speak to award-winning author Carly Kade about why people can't get enough of stories in which love blossoms in the stables…

“I sighed at the spectacular realization that I had never really allowed myself to believe that real cowboys might actually exist, especially not one with brains and killer blue eyes, alive and breathing in my barn. This man was a real cowboy, not on the big screen, in my dreams or in my imagination, but here in my barn…”


McKennon Kelly, the mysterious ‘Romeo in Wranglers’ hero of Carly Kade’s novels In The Reins and Cowboy Away, would surely be a welcome Valentine’s date for many romantics the world over. The books tell the story of Devon Brooke, a city-girl-gone-country, handsome cowboy McKennon and paint horse Faith, who meet by fate on a farm in America’s south.


As sweethearts celebrate Valentine’s Day, we spoke to Carly, an award-winning author from Arizona, about the enduring appeal of equestrian literature and just why people love to read about romance blossoming in the stables…

"I know what it
feels like to
swoon over
a cowboy!"

Carly is for sure a horse lover herself…

“When I’m not writing or reading, I’m riding my horse,” she says. “I will own horses until I take my last breath. I love them that much.


“Horses give me peace. There is nothing more peaceful to me than the quiet bond between a woman and her horse. I am happiest when I am in the saddle.”


Carly has had a love for horses for as long as she can remember. She would stare longingly at horses in roadside pastures and spend her time drawing them with coloured crayons. She also loved reading Anna Sewell, Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague.


When she was 10 her parents bought her a horse of her own, Missy, who she describes as “my first horse and the best life coach a young woman could ever ask for”.


She now also owns paint horse Sissy, who actually stands in as Faith on promotional videos for In The Reins and sequel Cowboy Away.


While she always loved writing, she says she did not set out to publish a novel until McKennon Kelly, the leading man from In The Reins, “came to me like lightning one day” in the form of a poem.


She recalls: “I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal. That poem ended up being the intro to the book. 


“From there, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to read. Beverly Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.” I think I’ve read everything in existence about horses and romance. However, I couldn’t find many horse books written about my particular discipline. 


“I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows that I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on Dressage or Jumping or rodeo, but I hadn’t found many that focused on Western pleasure competitive horse showing at breed shows like Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.


“The story seemed to beg me to tell it, but I still pondered whether I should write a book or if I even could. Writing a book is scary. You put your creative self on the line for people to hopefully enjoy, but also to judge.”


She was determined that the leading man would be a hit with her readers...


“When I started really writing the In the Reins series, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for McKennon as they turned the pages of my story,” she says.


“Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers - so In the Reins and its sequel, Cowboy Away, naturally became equestrian romance novels.


“Writing equestrian romance novels about horses and riding them are both good for my creative soul.


“My history with - and rich knowledge of - horses is definitely a reason why I think other horse lovers have been drawn to the book.


“I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous. I know what it feels like to feel stuck with my horse’s training. I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy!”


Horses and romance - the perfect partners...

Horses and romance have been linked together for centuries, from the days of chivalry to the more modern blockbusters from the likes of Jilly Cooper. While the link may be complex, Carly thinks it simply reflects a lifestyle many choose.


“Equestrian inhabits everything you do,” she says. “I know I will pick up anything with a horse on it, especially a book.


“I think the link between horses and romance is due to the fact that loving horses is a lifestyle. It starts as a girl and grows throughout life, so it only makes sense that people would want to read an equestrian romance once they’ve grown up that mirrors their lifestyle and chosen riding discipline.


“I remember how much I loved horse stories when I was a little cowgirl, but I grew up. In my adulthood, I am just as horse-obsessed as I was as a child."


Carly adds: “I think the equestrian fiction and equestrian romance genres are the books that young horse lovers grow into to feed that need to read about their passion for horses.

“I like to define equestrian romance as a story where the horses are as prominent characters in the storyline as the leading female and male.


“I think equestrian romance novels place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people with a heavy dose of the horse lifestyle on the side, and should have a satisfying and optimistic ending for the reader.”


In the era of the Kindle, equestrian romance is holding up well. With a new generation of readers and writers such as Carly, the future looks bright.


“I think equestrian romance and fiction is definitely evolving,” she says. “Early novels about companionship and equestrian skills were usually geared toward young girls who love horses, but horse novels especially by independent authors are really expanding on the genre of the past.


“Amazon now has categories for equestrian-themed books and authors, which really shows that there is a demand for equestrian fiction and equestrian romance novels.”


Follow @fei_global on Instagram for fabulous images from the equestrian world...


Words by Richard Mulligan

Images courtesy of Carly Kade Creative


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