by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1993
Welcome to the first book post-Wonder. The series skips forward more than a year in Ashleigh's Dream, and we've got a new horse to worry about: Fleet Goddess. We've even got a new kid that takes the series for a bit of a test drive in this installment, although for the moment it's still more or less our neurotic Ashleigh holding the reins.
Here's the cover:
Yeah, it doesn't make any sense. The only thing really neat about it is that everyone of much importance (besides Charlie, who is old and therefore not on any book cover) is depicted. Wonder and her foal are in the background, Samantha (the new kid) sits on the fence staring all dreamy eyed at Fleet Goddess and Ashleigh, who inexplicably appears in her racing silks. There is no reason why she'd be wearing racing silks on the farm. Other thoughts: Samantha is wearing cowboy boots, Ashleigh's hair is suddenly dark blond/light brown and very big. Also, when does Samantha's hair become curly?
Anyway, sort of a hodgepodge of stuff going on there.
Okay, that first question? The answer is no. No, Samantha can't ride Fleet Goddess to victory. Why? Because Samantha is thirteen. The rest of it is remarkably true to the book, which is either because someone actually managed to write a good blurb or because the plot of the book was basically to transition from book four to book six and introduce us to Samantha.
Can Samantha ride Fleet Goddess to victory?
When Ashleigh's horse, Wonder, gives birth to a beautiful foal, Ashleigh is thrilled. She's raising Wonder's colt, racing as an apprentice jockey, and she's even looking out for young Samantha McLean. Samantha moved to Townsend Acres with her father after her mother died in a riding accident. When Ashleigh buys a filly named Fleet Goddess, Samantha helps train the horse.
Samantha loves horses, but since her mother's death, her father has forbidden her to ride. Then Ashleigh is injured, and Fleet Goddess can't train. Samantha is desperate to take over. Is there any way she can convince her father to let her risk riding again?
#1: Ashleigh and Charlie are bored. Wonder quit racing in the spring of her four-year-old campaign, so given that she just gave birth to her first foal they've had a lot of time to twiddle their thumbs and work with claimers. So Ashleigh has all this money from the two races Wonder won while she co-owned her and decides, hey, she's going to buy a horse with some of this money. So she buys a horse. She and Charlie are no longer bored.
#2: Say hello to our next main character: Samantha McLean. Samantha is thirteen years old, with a mane of fiery red hair (that may or may not be curly). Her father is an assistant trainer, newly relocated from a relatively unsuccessful life in Florida to train at Townsend Acres. Her mother recently died, leaving a gaping void of angst over whether or not Samantha will be able to ride a horse. Because riding is dangerous, you see. Who would have thought running around on the back of a flighty animal might end in tragedy once in a while? So Samantha struggles with her father and wants to help Ashleigh train Fleet Goddess, but can't because she's been forbidden to ride. What's a rebellious teenager to do in this situation? She rebels.
Shockingly, Brad is not a big part of the book. He pops up to harass some grooms and manages to make Ashleigh's life inconvenient for a few minutes, but that's it. Really, it was not satisfying.
- It took Ashleigh "a lot of thought" to come up with the name Wonder's Pride. I certainly hope she didn't strain herself.
- What is it with the anti-whip obsession? You have one horse that's whip shy and I get it...really, I do. It happens. Now Charlie doesn't like to use whips on any of his horses. ANY of them. Apparently there are only two options available to a rider when training/riding a horse in the Thoroughbred series: beat the horse up with a whip or whisper loving speeches in its ear. Of the two, only the loving speeches work.
- More fun with hair styles! Corey has "slicked" her short hair away from her face, and Jennifer has "piled" all of hers on top of her head. At least there are no combs to be found.
- Jennifer is such the typical blond airhead. Currently she's planning on majoring in fashion design, but for some reason hasn't realized that one needs to take science classes to graduate from high school. That's Jennifer for you. A real go getter.
- Some of the grooms don't think Fleet Goddess will do much. I'm all astonishment.
- Brad's home from college for the summer! Brad's home from college for the summer!
- "Frankly, I don't know why any girl would want to go out with him." "Because he's cute and he's loaded. And he's not all bad," Caroline admitted. "Can't convince me." If this conversation exists in different formats in every book for the past five books it isn't reminding people that Ashleigh thinks Brad's good looking but would never date him because he's an asshole. It's bordering on protesting too much.
- Charlie is suffering from a mystery illness, one that even Ms. Campbell can't figure out.
- Charlie's "got to be near seventy"? What? I always pictured Charlie being well past seventy.
- Oh, Brad. Yelling at a groom because you don't like the way he's cleaning tack? Isn't there something else Brad could be doing with his time? Micromanaging grooms just doesn't seem evil enough.
- So we finally get our first Brad and Ashleigh angry interaction on page 102 (oh, it's been too long) and while the problem was minor I have to say I agree with Brad. The farm is going to go into financial distress in the next book, something that has been hinted at all over this book, and Ashleigh's over there using the farm's exercise riders for a horse the farm has no interest in. Further, Ashleigh's only paying for Fleet Goddess's feed. And of course Brad is jealous of you, Ashleigh. He got stepped on in all ways possible in the last book and then found out he has to share Wonder and all her foals with you, whom he hates, for the rest of his life. I'd say the poor asshole has a lot on his plate. Hire your own freaking rider if you have enough money for two educations and a racehorse and can pay Samantha to groom said racehorse, then stop bitching! ...oh, that would negate the plot of the book. Oops. *shrugs*
- What happened to Chad?
- Finally, some trouble in paradise for Ashleigh and Mike. All's perfect before you throw in a horse the boy casually doesn't believe in.
- Okay, so first Alydame is in a horse's pedigree and then she's suddenly running in the race. Hum...
- The race calls in this book are just really bad. No one talks like that. No one has the time to talk like that.
- And Fleet Goddess wins! Take that, Mike!
- No whinnies of joy at the end of this book. Instead there's crooning and grinning and the like. I feel a little let down.
Second thought: Ashleigh never reconciles with Mike at the end. She gives him the cold shoulder literally three pages before the end of the book and that's that. No one knows how to resolve conflict in this series.
Third thought: whips. They carry one all the time, but they hate them and only use them in case they have to which, for anyone interested, means only flicking the crop next to the horse's eye. In order to, you know, win the race they're riding in. If someone ever used a crop properly everyone would probably fall into hysterics immediately afterward.
So that's Ashleigh's last book, which is basically just a transition into Samantha and Wonder's Pride and more interesting plots. Financial distress, here we come!