Caroline's Heart by Austin Chant

Caroline is dead, leaving her lover with nothing but the clockwork heart that once beat in her chest. But Cecily, a witch of unconventional reputation, is not one to be defeated by the laws of nature. After years of careful assembly, her resurrection spell is nearly complete and grows more powerful by the day. When Cecily meets Roy, a soft-spoken cowboy who shares a strange kinship with Caroline, Cecily thinks she's finally found the key to bringing her lover back-but when Roy is mortally wounded, she finds herself torn between finishing the resurrection spell and saving the life of a stranger. A queer Weird West romance by the author of Peter Darling in a new, expanded edition.

PUBLISHER: Austin Chant
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 162 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s), Trans Main Character(s), Closeted Main Character(s).

CAROLINE'S HEART is a story of grief, love, and connection between a witch and a cowboy. Cecily has been trying to magically call her deceased lover's soul to bring her back to life. Roy is a cowboy who figured out too late that he dislikes his job. He meets Cecily when she comes to the ranch, and he’s fascinated by her and her magic. When Roy gets injured while protecting Cecily, she saves his life and he recuperates at her home. As they spend time together, the bond between them grows until, eventually, Cecily is faced with a choice between the ghost in her past and a chance at the future.

The story has such an intimate focus, only lightly involving anyone besides Roy and Cecily. Even though half of the story is from Cecily’s perspective, she’s so focused on trying to bring back Caroline, her deceased lover, that most details of her thoughts and history only are shown when she opens up to Roy. 

The world building is consistent without trying to be particularly dense, which works very well for such a brief story. It takes advantage of a well-trod setting in the historical American west to do a lot of the heavy lifting, focusing more on the relationships between the characters and how Cecily uses her magic. Roy and Cecily have been navigating different kinds of prejudices, but their bond is more about how they connect to each other than whatever difficulties they have in relating to other people. 

Things I love, in no particular order: The relationship between Roy and Cecily, the way Roy takes it on himself to make Cecily's life better even though she's capable of surviving, how much space there is for Cecily's grief and healing.

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief.

Moderate CW for cursing, sexual content, alcohol, fire, bullying, xenophobia, homophobia, blood, violence, gun violence, murder, death.

Minor CW for racism, excrement, pregnancy, miscarriage.

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A red sky with a setting sun, a cowboy sits on a fence, silhouetted against the sky.


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