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Caroline's Heart

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Cecily lost her soulmate years ago, leaving her with nothing but the clockwork heart that once beat in Caroline's chest. They say it's impossible to bring back the dead, yet Cecily's resurrection spell is nearly complete and grows more powerful by the day.

But when a cowboy she barely knows is fatally injured, the only way to save him is by sacrificing an essential piece of the resurrection spell—and all possibility of seeing her lover again.

96 pages, ebook

First published October 25, 2017

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About the author

Austin Chant

6 books984 followers
S. A. Chant, a.k.a. Austin Chant, is a bitter millennial, a decent chef, and a queer, trans writer of romance and speculative fiction. He runs the Speculation Postcard Club, in which subscribers get a short story in the mail each month. He lives in Seattle with a cat who was recently described as a 'gooey cryptid.'

Icon by Veronica Agarwal (@anuanew)!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 196 reviews
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,306 followers
October 24, 2017
I could read books by Austin Chant every single day of my life and be ridiculously happy. This is the third of Austin's novellas that I have read this year, and I want to tentatively say this one is my favorite of the bunch? Seriously, let me gush a little here.

The main character and love interest of this novella are both trans. While this is in a historical setting, and the words trans/transgender are never used, the novella is still super clear about identities, in regards to both both gender and sexuality which was fantastic. This book was phenomenally queer and I absolutely ate it up.

Roy, the main character, is a cowboy who set out on his own to make a life for himself away from his family. He is quiet, charming, and sometimes a bit stubborn, and I love him so very much. Cecily, the love interest, is a witch. She uses her magic mostly to create prosthetics, though of course it can also be helpful to conjure food whenever you're hungry, and has closed herself off from the people around her after she lost her love, Caroline. The romance is fantastic, and I loved how these characters interacted. Austin has never failed to make me swoon over a couple.

And!! This is so very up my alley setting-wise. It's set in the 1800s, and starts out in Texas, but then there's also witchcraft. If you know anything about me at all, the phrase "there's also witchcraft" is my favorite phrase of all time. It immediately improves upon every idea, and it was really used well in this particular story.

This is spooky, sweet, and wonderful in all the best ways. Please, please, please check it out, and give Austin's other work a read too.

*I received an early copy of Caroline's Heart from the author but that in no way influences my review*
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,602 followers
October 29, 2017
Chant hits it out of the park again with a fantastic alt-West fantasy romance. This novella features two trans leads, Roy the quiet and frankly adorable cowboy and Cecily the witch who does what you might call magical biomechanics. Vividly written, beautifully drawn characters, lovely sweet romance, magic system created with amazing economy, and a very creepy threat. A joy to read. I'll buy anything Chant writes.
Profile Image for Nina ✿ Looseleaf Reviews ✿.
143 reviews56 followers
February 11, 2018
Austin Chant has done it again and created a badass, emotional, and captivating story in less than 100 pages! There's so much going on in this book. There's Roy, the wayward cowboy who has no real home or ambitions other than just getting my. There's Cecily, the witch both feared for her aloofness and cold attitude and respected for helping the injured in her village. Then of course there's Caroline, a lost love whose memory has lived on, probably for longer than it should...

How a novella has complete world building and a slow-burn romance in 98 pages, I don't know, but it really does. The magic of the world is cool. Cecily, a witch, can do basic spells like summoning items or teleporting across a room. But the main thing she does is create artificial limbs for injured people. There's not much explanation beyond that, but for the length of the story, the physics of the world sit perfectly and make sense for the forwarding of the plot.

Roy and Cecily were also fantastic leads. Roy, while private and closed off from others, has such a warm heart that everyone seems drawn to him. And Cecily, while extremely prickly, shows her goodness in the righteousness of her actions.

Like all of Chant's work, this is a trans romance - this time with both MCs. This plot works so beautifully as there's so much richness to the metaphors of being at conflict with your own physical body. It's also a blended fantasy and western historical fiction, so well the word "trans" is never used, it has some great exploration about the characters' identities without being a soapbox.

It reminds me of a sort of trans Howl's Moving Castle with a little Fullmetal Alchemist twist Definitely dark in places, but a really beautiful story of some memorable characters.


"That's not how I am. It's no disguise for me. And I can't tell you how or why, but when I said I considered myself a man, that's what I meant."

"I had a very queer childhood. I was a girl and witch and I wasn't supposed to be either, according to my family."

"I sort of figured I was the only one who ever--the only one God ever made a mess of."
Profile Image for X ✚ Black Magic Reviews.
9 reviews42 followers
November 4, 2017
4.5 out of 5 stars

It's no secret that I love Austin Chant's writing, and the smooth, effortless way he weaves a story with a powerful sense of character, atmosphere, and enchantment. His writing is fluid, both weighty with meaning and delicate in word choice, craft, and construction. Chant has a tendency to take my expectations of a story and turn them on their heads, leaving me pleasantly surprised and longing for more. CAROLINE'S HEART is no different, making for a haunting, lovely, utterly satisfying read.
The heart knows its duty well. It hardly needs an invitation to begin beating.

Even if CAROLINE'S HEART arrived with the Halloween season and has an enchantingly haunting cover, it's less horror and more a pleasantly spooky paranormal with a "what if Salem were in Texas" vibe. In this well-paced novella, Roy is a cowboy with a secret: he's not quite like the other men. He was born male, but arrived at it by a slightly different path that others wouldn't understand or accept in that time period. So he keeps his own counsel, rarely speaks, and is immensely careful about how much of his body he allows others to see. It's an isolating existence, one that often leaves him withdrawing from others.

Until he meets the witch.


Cold and defensive, at first Cecily is annoyed by Roy's eager curiosity, unwilling to let anyone close for reasons both deeply personal and startlingly similar to Roy's. Yet Roy's own employer throws them together, giving Roy a chance to pursue his curiosity...until it leads to a catastrophe, and the only way to save his life is for Cecily to give up the most important thing to her in the world.

The reluctant -- at least on her part -- romance as Roy recovers is charming, and fraught with secrets of a heavy heart. Secrets both personal and supernatural; secrets both quiet and stunning. Secrets she's carried alone for far too long, and yet Roy is willing to help bear their weight if only she'll let him in, trust him, and give them both the opportunity to accept each other for who they truly are.
She looks straight at him, not in the forthright way that some people do, but like a cat watching an insect.


***Chant's writing is, as always, beautiful. He weaves a lyricism with his words that casts as much of a hypnotic spell as Cecily's magic.

***The take on magic and witchcraft in the worldbuilding was delightfully different, unique, and utterly entrancing. I loved how Cecily used her magic to create prosthetics that saved people's lives, even if (spoiler) .

***The entire concept of the story, this romance between a cowboy and a witch who creates enchanted prosthetic body parts, is so entirely fresh and new, and not even remotely what I was expecting when I picked up the novella.

***Roy as a trans character in a historical setting was written in such an engaging way. He's a wonderfully likable fellow with grit, heart, and honor, and I have to say his way of saying "Yes, ma'am" was swoonworthy and charming.

***Chant touches on the idea that we don't know we're different until someone tells us we're different. As children we only know that we exist, and we don't think of any of our traits or preferences as abnormal until someone tells us they are. We don't apply labels to ourselves. Others apply those labels to us, and then spend the rest of our lives walling us into their sometimes restrictive, sometimes comforting, always complicated boxes.
"I knew as soon as someone told me, which was when I was quite young."

***The story is at once heartwarming and heartwrenching, with believable, relatable emotions described with gentleness and empathy. It's definitely a story about loneliness and isolation, how both the secrets of who we are and open demonstration of our differences can ostracize us from society and leave us aching for even one person to understand; one person who can accept us for who we are.

***The sex scene involving trans characters didn't rely on genital essentialism to show intimacy between them, deftly handling describing it without delving into potentially clumsy or misgendering descriptions.


***In a few places the writing didn't flow smoothly, causing me to drift off from the story.

***There were a couple of spots where the passage of time wasn't wholly clear. Maybe that was intentional to show the effects of living in witch-time, but it raised enough questions and confusions to jar me out of the story.


In the end this paranormal romance is a deeply human story about love, grief, and acceptance, told against a backdrop that carries the same breathless wonder as a dark fairy tale. It reminds me of the pure childlike delight I feel when watching something such as The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride, taking something that should be macabre and weaving it into the delicate framework of something beautiful and heartfelt.
The human body is a complexity of anchors and pulleys, but Cecily has devoted herself to understanding it, tailoring the tension and slack of each spell-thread until the prosthetic leg can bend and stretch gracefully.

Chant weaves a story that moves with a machinery as smooth as Cecily's prosthetics, resulting in a satisfying read that I would recommend for anyone who loves haunting romance.
Profile Image for Ami.
5,864 reviews496 followers
November 16, 2017
Austin Chant slowly becomes one of my favorite authors after Coffee Boy and Peter Darling. Featuring two trans* characters in an alternate-West historical setting, I found Caroline's Heart to be magical, tender, and oh so very lovely.

Roy the cowboy is a darling! I immediately fall in love with him. He is quiet, tends to keep things to himself to avoid scrutiny, but the way that he approaches Cecily, wanting to learn, wanting to help ... such a dear, DEAR character. Cecily the witch is a bit prickly; but I guess I can understand her keeping distance from everyone after losing her beloved.

All in all, a satisfying read.
Profile Image for Shira Glassman.
Author 26 books510 followers
October 27, 2017
There are so many beautiful things to comment on in Caroline's Heart. First of all, it does this super neat trick with worldbuilding where you're set down right in the middle of a visceral, earthy, easy-to-follow 19th century Western American cowboy story, except in this universe witches are a normal, if regarded suspiciously, part of the daily experience. I adore how natural this felt. I think what Austin wrote is exactly how a group of nominally Christian ranch hands would feel about the type of prosaic witchcraft that involves blessing the births of new calves, or a woman trading for scraps of leather for magic just as ordinarily as another might trade for them for her tailoring.

The naturalistic approach to Cecily's magic continues as we follow her home from the ranch, which I'm pretty sure is to a house that's literally half in Oregon and half in Texas (like, her home is in Oregon but her adjoining workshop is in Texas, which is just a thrillingly cute little detail.) This isn't the witchcraft that sets in course the fate of nations or threatens entire city blocks; she makes her living making magical prosthetics for those who need artificial limbs or back braces.

Roy is a bi, trans ranch hand (although neither word is used but both identities are made abundantly clear on the page using period appropriate ideas and experiences) who's ready to leave the cowboy life. When Cecily the Witch shows up at the ranch he's taken with her instantly, but it takes them several encounters to get over some rough edges. She's also trans, but she doesn't tell him right away. (He spends a lot of energy trying to convince her that he's not just a woman posing as a man to make things easier in ranching, but she doesn't need any convincing at all because his experiences mirror hers and explaining that is how she eventually comes out.)

Meanwhile, she's been spending the past five years trying to bring her dead girlfriend back to life but spoiler spoiler blah blah part of how we heal is admitting it's time to start healing. There are elements of this that remind me of The Cybernetic Tea Shop with its parallel themes of holding on to a dead girlfriend and how that relates to the new relationship.

This is a gentle romance between two trans people, written by a trans author, so if you're collecting those, add this one to your stack. The general romance trope this one fits the most is I'd say "two loners find that it's cozier to be together", given Cecily's initial outward prickliness and Roy's closing himself off to preserve his privacy.

Cecily makes it light up ("witchlight", in Austin's words) without a candle. Roy is impressed, but she dismisses it as "Just a bit of air taught to glow." I really like this wording. Also the moment when she refrains from asking him for details about his past, in which she thinks "she has no right to pry when she hasn't deigned to tell him just how similar their stories are."

It's all very elegantly and simply worded. This isn't the type of story where you have to read and reread paragraphs because you're not sure what happened. It's a little bit steampunk, a little bit horror, but mostly a paranormal romance set in the American West with some gracious nods to the old folkways from the times when women's "house magic" would be valued by villagers who needed support for their sicknesses and for their crops and livestock.

Content warnings: Roy gets shot in a (totally unrelated to bigotry) bar fight; Cecily winds up seeing under his shirt while he's out because she has to save his life (but they're alone in her place and she doesn't let it form her opinion of his gender), and yes, there's a sex scene at the very very end. Also, Caroline, the dead girlfriend, had bigoted parents and some of what happens to her kind of nudges at the "dead lesbians" trope--she isn't killed, but she kind of dies from medical neglect?--but this story was written from inside the umbrella so please note that this is a content warning for sensitive readers, not as a criticism.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,094 reviews1,271 followers
June 23, 2018
I just grabbed my kindle, got on my couch, and read. And it was so good.

This is the story of a trans cowboy named Roy, and a trans witch named Cecily. Both struggle through life, one because he never seems to stumble upon the right opportunity, and the other because she lost someone extremely dear to her heart and isn't ready to let go of this person yet.
Both characters are attracted to men and women, at least from what I gathered.
I was such a beautiful story, I couldn't stop reading, just so beautiful and heart-wrenching at times. Please, read it.

Profile Image for Mariam.
908 reviews73 followers
November 10, 2017
Gothy? Yes. Cis? Hell no. I am so happy for stories that center trans voices especially OWNVOICES ones because they bring this little heart to tears. My review is more eloquent.
Profile Image for thosemedalingkids.
402 reviews47 followers
July 6, 2023
Ok, I loved this.

A quiet cowboy, a prickly witch. Historical and fantasy elements. Witchcraft and cozy houses they teleport to. Crafting and mending and enchantments to help the public.

So casually queer, so tender and sweet at times, also the casual transness throughout this is *chefs kiss. Also the new cover is so gooood.

Love. Yeehaw

CWs: death of loved one (partner), body horror, gunshot wound, body dysphoria
Profile Image for Avery (Book Deviant).
399 reviews88 followers
November 6, 2017
I would like to thank the author Austin Chant for providing a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

See more of my reviews on my blog the Book Deviant

I don’t know how often I mention this, but I’m a huge sucker for gothic stories–even romances, which normally aren’t my thing. But I usually make exceptions for trans romances, and a trans gothic romance sounded perfect. And, really, there’s no other way to describe this book. I loved the characters, and I loved their relationship. I loved the atmosphere and the setting, the writing and the plot. There was literally nothing in this book that I didn’t love.

You first meet Roy, and Cecily’s reputation. Two different ways to introduce characters, but two wonderfully well thought out introductions that charmed my way into the heart. Roy was just an excitable character, and the description of “dogged enthusiasm” fit him really well when it came up. When Cecily finally made it onto the page, I couldn’t get enough of her. She was independent, loving, but also very pessimistic. Roy and Cecily’s personalities clashed, which ended up making them the perfect couple. The way they met was hilarious, because Roy should have been terrified of her, but was instead just curious. Again, dogged enthusiasm fits perfectly.

The way trans-ness was included in this book was what really hit me in the heart. It was honest, but also hopeful, if that makes sense. You constantly got fed Roy’s insecurities about being trans, with how he worried if he was “found out”. And it hurt, but it was so reassuring to read. And, I hadn’t known this when I started reading, but Cecily is trans too, and I was so shocked I nearly started crying. A trans m/trans f romance, in a gothic, western setting?? It was a book of my dreams.

Five stars - Overall?

Austin wrote yet another trans novel that really dug it’s way into my heart. There was literally nothing in this novel that I found myself frowning over, which, to be honest, is extremely rare. Austin knew the perfect length it should have been, and cut himself off. I almost consider myself spoiled with how indulging this story was for me.

Would I Recommend?

Totally, especially if you’re looking for Own Voices trans lit. I found myself comforted with the story and the characters. I literally just finished it, and I already am deciding when I should reread. Tomorrow? Tonight? How about while I’m at work?

Trigger warning for violence, mentioned transmisia, death of a loved one, and murder.
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 14 books318 followers
December 25, 2018
Why I loved Caroline's Heart: aside from both main characters being trans and bi (representation yay!), there's a gentle cowboy with lovely manners, some spooky-as-hell magic done by cranky witch, and Austin Chant is freakin' gifted with the English language. So many sentences in this novella kicked me right in the heart. It's about loneliness, loss, the burden of keeping secrets, and finding a person with whom you can be your whole self, but it never feels heavy. The story ends with such a feeling of relief, hope, and home. The blurb for this book centers Cecily, but Roy's the emotional heart (no pun intended) of the story, the one who coaxes Cecily alive and holds her up when she needs it.

Set in 1885 in both Texas (including Austin, yay!) and Oregon, but with no road trip, because witches have better travel options than non-magical people.

For a really good, long review of it by someone who writes about books far better than I ever will, see this take on Caroline's Heart by X / Black Magic Reviews.

Diversity note: Chant is a bi trans man, so #ownvoices FTW on this one.
Profile Image for Ellie.
827 reviews173 followers
October 25, 2017
All. The. Love!!!
Another 5 star read by Austin Chant after I was recently blown away by Peter Darling

There is magic and love and angst and witch-craft and it's all so beautiful and moving. I dare you to read it and remain unaffected by it.

Full review, also posted on elliereadsfiction.blogspot.com

Such a wonderful and a little bit spooky story full of magic!

I loved everything about it, the characters, the plot and the setting. I found it very atmospheric, I could feel the oppressing heat of Texas and the fresher air of Oregon, I could picture the house and garden and tiny workshop of Cecily, I lived through all the sorrows and joys of Roy and Cecily. And the magic was all pervasive and so profoundly present in the story, it brought everything and everyone together while also posing the gravest danger to them.

I found this story very much like Peter Darling, very moving, emotionally intense and all consuming. I keep returning and re-reading it for the sheer beauty of Austin Chant's writing and the fascinating world-building. He includes all these little details both about the characters (main and supporting ones) and their world which make them feel tangible and real.

I loved how we get to know the characters gradually as they get to know each other. It's s low burn romance and they are kind of opposites in many ways - he is good-natured and kind and well mannered and full of curiosity and childish wonder of the world, in complete awe of her and her witchcraft. She, on the other hand, is more wordly, more experienced, a bit jaded, really good at her craft and but also a heart-broken and closed off to the world after she lost Caroline.

Their story is all about magic and love and the possibility for happiness, of being loved and giving back love. Despite the creepy elements, I see this as mostly a hopeful story and reading it filled my heart with joy. I see this easily becoming a comfort read for me.

In short, I can't recommend this book enough.
Profile Image for henri reads.
88 reviews13 followers
July 8, 2019
read this in one evening as a treat for finishing my paper and do not regret in the slightest!
so far the only other story of chant's that i've read was 'coffee boy' and while i liked that one, this one is now firmly #1! (might be because fantasy is always something i really latch onto).
the only thing i really have to complain about is: why... not.... more.... i would have loved for this story to be given a little bit more space and a little slower pace to breathe and let the relationship develop more slowly, get even more background story on both mcs. other than that this gets 5* and a special place in my heart!

if you're looking for a short read that has historical fantasy, witchcraft, trans characters (yes! plural!), a sad but bittersweet wlw love story, bi characters (yes!! plural!!), a great writing style and a sense of hopefulness then look no further!
Profile Image for RoAnna Sylver.
Author 25 books265 followers
January 22, 2018
But the idea of Cecily being placed on the earth in such a damned confusion, just like him, and finding her way to be as extraordinary as she is—and him finding his way to her table, getting to sit across from her, quietly adoring her—the wonder of it all fills him with a swell of emotion that’s the closest thing to holy he’s ever felt.

* * *

I've been a huge Austin Chant fan since reading Peter Darling early last year, and had high hopes coming into this - and I was definitely not disappointed. Reading this was an experience. Uniquely immersive in that rare and wonderful way that sucks you in and makes you think every clock in the house has to be wrong by the time you look up. The world felt real, richly, atmospheric, eerily evocative, and bittersweet.

Others have gone over the plot and themes a lot better than I could - check out Shira's review here in particular - so I will just say... that the emotional core/'heart' is incredibly raw, and hit home for me in... ways that are driving the words right out of my head, honestly. It happens when I'm emotionally overwhelmed. The more important/wonderful/devastating a thing, the harder I find it to word. (In a strange way, this is very high praise. If I can't talk about it, it's Real.)

But reviews require words, so I don't have the 'luxury' of going nonverbal for an afternoon, so.

I've been where Cecily was. I've felt what she felt.
I might have done the same.

And I'm glad it ended the way it did, even if my own foolish heart kept hoping for everything to somehow... work out differently. But it wouldn't have been right for the story, as it isn't in real life.

Ultimately this is a story about letting go of a clenched fist so your hand can be open for whatever goodness next comes to you. The same is true of hearts.
Profile Image for Abi (The Knights Who Say Book).
632 reviews95 followers
March 1, 2018
GUYS. GUYS THIS BOOK IS SO CUTE. It's about a prickly witch and a sweet cowboy who get tangled together when they save each other's lives, and they're both trans and queer and mutually slowly falling in love, and they've both struggled with loneliness and isolation because of their identities but over the course of the story they realize they can relate to and help each other and tHEN THEY KISS. Other stuff (necromancy-ish stuff!) happens also but that's the gist. It's a short novella and like so many novellas I would have loved it to be longer, but it's also nice to have such a quick yet satisfying read. Definitely recommend this one!
Profile Image for Claudie Arseneault.
Author 19 books408 followers
January 11, 2018
My first Austin Chant book, and I'm so happy I started there. Absolutely delightful and charming. I loved both Roy and Cecily from the start. This is romance at its best if you ask me. <3
Profile Image for Cai.
24 reviews10 followers
August 14, 2019
This is the third of Austin Chant's novella's that I've read and, in a turn of events that I certainly wouldn't have expected based on the book description, I think it's also my favourite. Set in 1885, this story begins on a ranch in Texas, where reluctant cowboy Roy works. Roy is a (bisexual) trans guy—but he's not sharing that information with his fellow farmhands, and his disinterest in emulating their rowdy and often crude masculinity makes him a bit of an outcast. Isolated and lonely even amongst his peers, Roy is intrigued when he learns that Cecily, the local witch, will be visiting the farm to bless the cattle births and do a tune-up on the owner's daughter's prosthetic leg. And when he's assigned to provide the witch with the supplies she needs for her spellwork, Roy's life begins to change.

Honestly, given my weakness for stories about witches and deeply lonely people, it shouldn't be surprising that this book hit the spot. Within a few page, I knew Roy had won a place in my heart thanks to the following exchange about the "witch candles" that had been set burning to keep the Devil at bay while the witch was visiting the farm:
“Well,” Roy says, “... I notice they only put the candles up around their own house. You think they’ve given up on keeping Satan out of the bunkhouse, or is it that the Devil himself wouldn’t want to hang around with this bunch of cowboys?”
Cook fixes Roy with one of her looks, although he could swear there’s a smile hidden somewhere in the wrinkles around her mouth. “I know why you don’t talk around the others,” she says. “It’s because you’ve got nothing good or generous to say.”
Roy grins, having nothing to say in his defense either.

Cecily was initially a rather puzzling character, but she's easy to like once you've gotten to see the world from her point of view. Frankly, this felt like a story that was written by and for trans people, which was a wonderful change of pace from some of the nonsense out there. Which is not to say that cis people can't also read and enjoy this book, of course, but this story wasn't written with them as the main intended audience and thus is not primarily concerned with explaining our existence. (No trans 101!) On a worldbuilding note, the way that magic worked here was lovely. The pagan in me was admittedly rather tickled by the idea of the witch blessing the cows, and I thought the concept of magical prosthetic limbs (Cecily's specialty) was quite ingenious. All in all, this was a delightful read, complete with witchcraft and romance and paranormal elements, and I can't wait to see what the author might write next.
Profile Image for Amy Cousins.
Author 49 books618 followers
November 9, 2017
If you're looking for an excellent Halloween read, definitely pick up Austin Chant's fantasy historical Caroline's Heart. <3 It's a Southern Gothic-flavored trans romance with a witch and a cowboy, powerful magic wrapped up in memory and grief, and a lovely HEA. Chant is a magical writer and his books are all on my rec list. This one is no exception.
Profile Image for Niki.
773 reviews123 followers
March 26, 2021
It was good but way too cutesy for my liking. LOVED the ownvoices representation and Cecily's magic, didn't care for UwU Roy. Could have been longer and more fleshed out in general.
Profile Image for Nicole Field.
Author 18 books144 followers
October 22, 2017
This novella is one expanded from a previous short published in Magic and Mayhem, which gives me hope of other shorts by Austin having expansions in the future.

Like everything else he's written, Caroline's Heart was completely immersive at the same time as being completely different to everything else that he's written. This is set with a trans cowboy in the last 1800s. Actually, every main character is pretty much trans, which is almost unheard of in a historic novel. And it's not just because one of them is a witch, either.

Roy Jones (who likely gets his name from Diana Wynne Jones) is a cowboy who stands a bit apart from the rest of the men on the ranch. In the first two chapters, we get into the ways that he passes as being a guy, from things like not talking often, to the deliberate efforts to make his voice deeper. It's enough to establish the character in the reader's mind clearly without lingering too long on the gender he was assigned at birth.

He is... simply put, the most wonderful character I think I've seen unfold onto a page. Every time he said 'ma'am' to Cecily, I had a small smile creep across my features. He is so caring and so careful and unassuming. He is the reason why this book is such a comfy read.

Then there's Cecily, the witch who has lost her beloved, Caroline. More than the character herself, I think I actually adored the way that Austin depicted magic in this novella. It was so clearly something that ran through Cecily herself and came out into the world. It was also amazing seeing how the people who had been touched by her magic reacted to her. Sometimes it was pretty terrible. Other times it was amazing.

I know the main thing that Austin focused on when expanding this story was a sense of place, and I can definitely say that this was followed through on 100%. Even though the home in which Cecily lived wandered about, wherever the story was set in any particular chapter, I felt as though I could clearly see it and its people.

The only thing I wasn't completely sold on was the emotional trajectory of the two main characters through the whole novella. I understood that Roy was drawn to Cecily immediately, and even that Cecily was drawn to Roy. What I wasn't sold on was how much of that being drawn had to do with Roy's similarity to Caroline, and how much to do with Roy's own merits. Despite that, the final pages were unutterably sweet.
Profile Image for Monika.
508 reviews148 followers
March 23, 2018
Writers like Austin Chant and Alison Evans are making me realize that there are stories I enjoy within genres I've previously assumed I didn't like. I love Chant's writing style, his worldbuilding, the way his characters interact. Everything is so normal and chill and yet, there's a witch and a clockwork heart and spells going on in this book! But I felt grounded reading this, so I actually enjoyed the fantasy aspects. (Plus, it's not medieval, whew!) Really enjoyed this novella.
Profile Image for Kate.
1,241 reviews2,227 followers
February 1, 2018

Hmm... I'm not sure about this one... like that is a GENEROUS 3 stars. Probably shoulda been closer to 2.5, maybe even 2 but like I can't disrespect Chant like that.

I'm a big fan of Chant's novella "Peter Darling," so when I saw this one had gone on Kindle Unlimited I immediately grabbed it and started reading. Needless to say, it didn't live up to my expectations. Honestly, half way through I tried to pull myself away and stop looking at it in comparison to PD, but... it still wasn't great even after I did that.

This novella firstly was honestly just boring. I thought of myself as someone who really enjoyed Westerns/Cowboys (i mean, if ya'll follow me on social medias you know I LOVE Westworld) but wow this version was just so gimmicky and campy which I usually don't mind?? but it was... boring, and very predictable and just unnecessary to me. I'm not sure how to explain it but I just wasn't a fan of it and found the majority of the setting/plot very boring.

The characters were the main drive of this story though, and I found, while I quite liked them, I couldn't get attached to them. One of my biggest praises to "Peter Darling" was how MUCH Austin Chant could do in such little time, and how developed the characters were in that, and I realized this novella is much shorter but the characters are also much flatter. So, while I liked them, I didn't actually care for them that much.

I was also just... did I miss something? Or am I stupid? But the ending.. just.. I was very confused because our main character is a transman who still has breasts (which is obviously a main plot point about the love interest discovering) but has a penis... but this is also a character who ran away from home at 17 and wasn't supported by his parents and was working on a ranch just to save up some money and I'm just VERY confused as to where he got the money for the surgery necessary for this. this might be very petty but I couldn't get passed it cause I was just too much like ???? how?? when??

Also this felt so much like fanfiction it was ridiculous. Like, Peter Darling was LITERAL Peter Pan fanfiction and this felt more like ff than PD did. It followed the typical fanfiction outline - characters meet, characters start to talk, love interest hates main protagonist, blah blah blah, but they love them secretly, blah blah blah, plot happens, sex scene, the end.

Overall, this novella was fine, it was entertaining and a quick little read, and I obviously really love Chant's writing style, but this one just didn't do it for me that much.
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145 reviews26 followers
May 6, 2021
This was very enjoyable and engaging all the way through. I really liked the romance between Roy and Cecily, which begins a little rocky, but develops nicely as more of the characters' backstories are uncovered over the course of the story and they get to know one another better.

One of my favorite things about Caroline's Heart was the representation. Both of the protagonists are trans, and both are also attracted to more than one gender. Neither of those things are a huge focus of the story, but they are very much an important part of who the characters are.

There's grief and magic and compassion weaved throughout this novella, and I felt all the elements came together very well by the end. Probably my only gripe was that the magic seemed too all-powerful, but since this is a romance with fantasy elements, rather than the other way around, I can mostly overlook it.

All in all, a very lovely read. I enjoyed it so much.

4.25 stars.
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