Mar 29, 2008

Introducing Miss Sweetness and Light: TB #12: Shining's Orphan

Shining's Orphan
Thoroughbred #12
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1995

It had to happen eventually. I know, I know, I could have skipped books 12 through 23 entirely but then what would be the point of this blog? What, indeed. So, I'm in it for the long haul. Twelve books of this:

Yeah, sure, she doesn't look menacing and annoying here. But believe me, this is Cindy's best cover. Here she's captured in her most innocent state: sleep. Here she can't scowl, glower, scream, cry, or look terrified as she does on every other cover. Here, the twins are still (happily) nameless. Here, hay looks comfortable. Here, denim is still a complete outfit. Here, we aren't crying in sheer pain . . . yet. Let's take this moment to reflect. The Thoroughbred Series as we knew it is over.
Can Cindy stay at Whitebrook Farm forever?

One night, when Samantha McLean goes to the barn to check her horse, Shining, she gets a big surprise. There's a girl sleeping on the hay between two orphaned foals!

Cindy Blake has run away from her foster home and found her way to Whitebrook Farm. She loves horses, and there isn't any place she'd rather live. Cindy begs Samantha to let her stay.

Cindy turns out to be a natural with horses, and she develops a bond with Shining. She thinks she's found the perfect home at last. But when the authorities find out where she is, they want to send her to another foster home. Can Samantha and her friends at Whitebrook find a way to keep Cindy on the farm for good?

Well, can she? What I love about the crux of the issue is that it's another one that has no answer. Yeah, Cindy stays at Whitebrook. How that happens is entirely glossed over so we can focus on the bliss of little orphan girl finding a home, despite us all hating her with a deep, seething, black persistence within another two books (as, I'm sure, someone had to like Cindy at the start).

Anyway, the plots are as follows:

1. Cindy. So she shows up, people randomly accept her without question, people love her despite her being as pissy as possible, of course she's a natural horsewoman and wow! Look at that, a mary sue. She shows up, Ian decides to foster her, there's a big to do over her living with "wild horses" despite her living with horses in her last foster home, and due to some miracle of miracles gets to stay at Whitebrook.

2. Angelique. I think Joanna Campbell has some deep seated issue with blonde women. Angelique is Tor's new student, despite apparently knowing her for years. Angelique is sort of like Lavinia if Lavinia was a home wrecker. She acts "cool" all the time, is painfully beautiful, and she wants to own Tor. She gets pretty close to that goal, if only for the fact that Tor is an idiot.

3. Mandy. She, like, falls. I know. Shocking. Then she acts all bratty about it and it takes Cindy of all people to force her to shut up already. Frankly, Mandy was worse than Cindy in this book in terms of being entirely annoying.


  • Ian's reaction to Cindy is remarkably relaxed. It's like, "Oh, hey, a kid randomly appearing in my living room. How about that? Now, who wants coffee?"
  • I find that the urge to stab Cindy with forks after only twelve pages is overpowering. Joanna keeps trying to give her this gritty attitude and instead of enjoying the change from happy and light to a ten-year-old's version of "get out of my face with your questions" I'm just really angry instead. Shocking, I know.
  • I have this feeling no one would be able to talk foster parents out of taking back one of their foster kids. More importantly, I have a feeling Child Protection Services wouldn't let them. Oh, Ian! Your wily ways know no bounds!
  • Okay. Cindy meets Tor and the first words out of his mouth are "Nice to meet you. Are you a steeplechasing fan?" Honestly. Tor, she's a foster kid on the lam. Do you really think she has time to watch steeplechasing?
  • Who ever uses the word "hooray" seriously?
  • Samantha is "amazed" at how at ease Cindy is with grooming and bathing horses. You know, when I was eleven I was pretty damn at ease with these tasks also and no one was in awe of me, thank you.
  • For being such a health freak, why is Beth serving fried chicken?
  • Suddenly everyone wants Cindy to stay. My biggest question is why? Yeah, not like that's ever answered or anything.
  • Cindy gets new clothes and she isn't happy about them. Ungrateful little . . . again, why do they want her so much? Why?
  • Thank God. Brad's back. I'll take Samantha, Ashleigh and Lavinia acting like pre-school children while Brad acts composed and bored over Cindy being annoying any day.
  • Great. Now Tor is in a white suit. He might be able to pull it off better than Mike, but really I don't think anyone does that whole look any justice like Brad.
  • You know how proms in movies are these insane things that never, ever happen in real life? Yeah, don't count the Thoroughbred Series out. Samantha's prom isn't boring, people. They dance the "haunting flamenco" to an acoustic guitar. When does that ever happen?
  • Okay, get ready for it: Samantha and Tor declare their love for each other. I figure this would have happened in the last book, given all that, um, happened there. But no, it's got to happen here so we can go from one emotional high to hating Tor in about two chapters. Fun, fun.
  • Samantha gets the chance to explain Lavinia's attitude again, much to my amusement. "She makes trouble for us whenever she can because she hates it when our horses do better than hers." Which is all the time. How succinct, Sammy. I almost feel that she could throw in there, "but honestly everyone will wind up hating you more than her anyway, so really she's getting a fair deal."
  • I will never get over how Cindy can see that Shining is favoring a leg and Samantha can't. Nope. Never. This whole "she's a natural!" crap is no excuse.
  • "Frozen yogurt!" Maureen yelled. Wow, Maureen. We know you like frozen yogurt, but you don't have to be so pushy about it. Here's a brief writing lesson: the word said is good. When you replace it with words like "crowed," "cried," and "yelled" all the time it makes your characters look crazy. End of lesson.
  • Yeah, who would have thought that "more papers" and a "load of red tape" would be involved in fostering a child? I mean, it's just a kid, for Christ's sake. *rolls eyes* Stop complaining, Ian! You were the one who randomly, with no input from anyone, decided to foster the child from hell, remember?
  • Factual: The Lafayette Stakes is run at Keeneland, not Churchill Downs. It is not a mile, nor was it a mile in 1995 (it was seven furlongs and is now six furlongs). It's also a Grade 3 race, not a "small stakes" race. Of course, to our Thoroughbred Series characters a small stakes race might well be a Grade 3 race...who knows.
  • Cindy begins her horseback riding lessons on Shining. Because she's gentle as a "pussycat" in a regular riding ring. Riiight.
  • Cindy's second lesson shoots her right past normal beginner lessons and straight into learning to ride the horse without reins or stirrups. Samantha says that "normally" she would wait to do this and you know what? There's no normally about it. She's never taught anyone how to ride before Cindy. What does she know? (And no, the Pony Commandos don't count.)
  • *gasp!* Mandy suddenly realizes she's handicapped and can't actually jump large fences! Tor seems to not care! Samantha is stung by Tor's supposed cold reaction to a seven year old crying! God forbid things not be cheerful every. second. of. the. day!
  • Yogurt Blues is like the Peach Pit of the Thoroughbred Series.
  • Here's the thing. Mandy's being all petulant about falling off Butterball. Everyone is telling her she just didn't have enough experience. They shouldn't be telling her that; that only reinforces the notion that she shouldn't expect to fall even after she has experience. They should tell her to expect to fall, and should expect it a lot. It's not like horses come with training wheels, and I'm sure plenty of people have figured out how to fall with training wheels. Tell her to get the hell over it already instead of trying to gag her with her firmly implanted silver spoon, okay?
  • Oh, Tor, you can leave a "sick" horse for ten minutes so you can run after your pissed off girlfriend. Instead he lets her rush off and proceeds to not contact her for a few days. How convenient that the storm brought down the phone lines. Maybe he could have enlisted Angelique's willing help to drive out to Whitebrook about three days before he did. Bastard.
  • The random mystery of Shining's Orphan: Cindy can stay! How this happened, or why remains unknown. Oh, Ian, your talents are shocking and awesome indeed.
Everything ties up so ridiculously in this book it's just hilarious. Samantha and Tor smooth things over after two pages of "oh, yeah, all of that was just a misunderstanding." Uh-huh. Yeah. Cindy arrives back at Whitebrook for seemingly no reason. Which has me curious about why we needed this kid in the beginning. She's not included in Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle, published in December of 1994. This book was published February 1995. When did Cindy enter the picture here? Why was she included, and why did this completely idiotic orphan plot come along with it?

Anyway. Book one down. Eleven more to go.


Monique said...

Mara, I love you and your wonderful reviews. However, your dates are a little off. By a decade. ;)

Having said that, I love this! you have provided insight into this book my fan-girlness blinded me to all those years back when i first read it.

Mara said...

gah! fixed the dates. thanks for pointing that out. :)

Anonymous said...

Tor pissed me off so much in this book. unless a horse is say, colicking so severely that he's thrashing around on the floor, there's no reason why he couldn't have run after Sam. and it's not like Whitebrook is so ridiculously far away from Tor's farm (was it ever given a name?) that he couldn't have let the stalls stay dirty for a half hour longer than usual while he went over to apologize. i always really liked Tor but he lost major points with me here.

Stacie said...

I love the beggining of this review. Your comments are hilarous. Thanks for the laughs about Cindy!

Anonymous said...

any idea about the title of the book? seriously... shinings orphan? why?! who cares?

Heather said...

Why couldn't Ash's parents adopt Cindy? How much better would that have been? Let the brat live in a normal home (because the McLean's are all some degree of insane) and hang out with foals and be OUT OF THE WAY for a while. I'm fairly certain Ash's parents are a better choice, but NOOOOO. Cindy had to inherit the limelight, so the author had to contort the most nonsensical plot line to jam Cindy right up our backsides...