Three Tales from Hawk’s Folly Farm
by J Kathleen Cheney
This book contains three complete fantasy novellas set in 1800s Saratoga Springs, NY, home of the historic Saratoga Race Track.
In the first novella, “Iron Shoes,” the young widow Imogen Hawkes has inherited a house, stable of thoroughbred horses, a practice track, and a mountain of debt. She needs to clear the debt by winning a race before a distasteful suitor forecloses on it. Sounds pretty vanilla, right? But hold on: she’s been suppressing her magical heritage for years and can sense that the series of disasters that are happening her farm and destroying her horse’s chances at winning any race are being helped along by magic. Fate sends her a horse that has even more magic than she does; he’s a puca, a shapeshifting man who can take the form of a horse. Iron on his skin burns, but he’s been cruelly locked into the horse form by a set of iron horseshoes. Despite warnings of a puca’s trickster nature, he frees Guaire. But can she trust him? And no, she cannot use him to win any races: the shadowy magical arm of the Saratoga Racing Association has strict rules against using magic to win a race. She ends up making quite a bargain with a fae to save her farm, and in the process finds her feet and her surprising salvation.
The second novella is “Snow Comes to Hawk’s Folly.” It follows the travails of the puca Guaire meeting and dealing with the man who bound his horse-feet in fae-burning iron: Finn, recently here from Ireland. Guaire is now married to Imogen, and Finn just happens to be her long-lost father. Talk about in-law problems! But the interference in all of their lives goes deeper than that, centuries deeper, and threatens Imogen and Guaire’s son. Deeply satisfying, yet it sets up the next tale beautifully.
Third and last is “Snow.” Here we are treated to a new and fascinating character, Lourdes Medina, who has the secret ability to talk to horses. Following a vision in a dream, she’s gone north to Saratoga Springs to buy back the mare her brother sold out from under her. At the auction she hears her mare’s buyer magically speaking to her horse! She follows him (Finn) home and tries to get her horse back. Finn proposes a bargain for the horse by which Lourdes becomes entangled in his family’s magical entanglements. One of those problems is a nasty woman with supernatural powers who thinks Lourdes is a rival for Finn’s affections.
The bargain Finn made with the fae to save his grandson has come due, and perhaps only Lourdes can save him.
It is exceedingly rare for a book to make its way into my shelf of comfort reads. This one may get worn out with re-reading. But reading the beauty and love in all three of the novellas in Iron Shoes soothes my soul.