Mar 8, 2008

Self-Confidence 101: TB #8 Sierra's Steeplechase

Sierra's Steeplechase
Thoroughbred #8
by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1993

Here's a book with a quick and obvious title. It tells you everything you need to know about the book in two words. Sierra. Steeplechase. Viola!

So, the cover:

This is an improvement from the last cover. We've got some action, and despite the male rider appearing to have no eyes and the strange blissful/incoherent look on Samantha's face there isn't much to complain about. Of course, the only steeplechasing I've seen were a few races broadcast from England on TVG, so I'm not about to start nitpicking on what anyone is doing on the cover. It's pleasing. I will leave it there.

There's no hope for Sierra . . .

Every trainer at Whitebrook Farm has given up on Sierra. The spirited colt just doesn't seem to have the patience for racing. Then Sierra jumps effortlessly over an enormous fallen tree, and Samantha McLean, the head trainer's daughter, knows the horse could be a champion steeplechaser.

With her friend Tor's help, Samantha begins to train Sierra for the dangerous demands of steeplechasing. But when Sierra's finally ready for his first race, Tor, the Thoroughbred's jockey, falls and breaks his arm. Now Samantha must ride Sierra in the most perilous race of her life--and make Sierra a winner!

Well, this is one of those rare blurbs that makes sense. Of course, there's not a lot of plot to pick through here, so writing the blurb must have been fairly easy. The book starts with Sierra being a pain in the butt; Samantha's in particular. She and Tor take him out on the trails and naturally there's an episode of wild bolting off into the woods. As it happens, Sierra gallivants down the trail with Samantha, completely out of control, and manages to jump a six-foot downed tree that's covering the path. This gets Tor all excited about his jumping ability again.

In the meantime, Pride is getting ready to run in the Breeders' Cup (which, strangely, is consistently punctuated correctly, as opposed to all the other books). They fly him out to California to run, only to have him stumble, catch himself with his hoof, and pull up. So Pride is out for the winter and the majority of early spring, giving Samantha time to devote herself to Sierra.

So back to Sierra. Tor and Samantha decide to train the colt to be a steeplechaser. Tor wants to jockey him, and Samantha spends almost every five pages being so happy about Tor jockeying Sierra because she knows she could never do it (her self-confidence, you see, is low for some reason). Oh, what foreshadowing! Then, just as they get Mike to approve putting Sierra in a novice competition in Lexington Tor has to go break his arm. I know, how unprecedented. With Tor out of the picture, that places the burden of having to ride the horse on Samantha. Why they couldn't get another jockey who knows what they're doing is beyond me, but it never crosses anyone's mind. At first Samantha's dad won't hear of it, but he gives in because he doesn't want to ruin Sierra's chances with Whitebrook. Because if Sierra doesn't do well in his novice race, he's going to be . . . sold! I know! The audacity of Mike to sell Samantha's favorite horse (besides Pride, and Fleet Goddess, and Wonder)!

Oddities (I didn't pick through this book, so there will be fewer this time around):

  • Samantha has been taking jumping lessons once a week (if possible) since mid-spring. About a year later she's riding a horse in a steeplechase of sixteen, four-foot brush fences. I don't even have a sarcastic remark for this.
  • Tor is really the heroic type, isn't he? I'm torn between being irked that he tells Samantha he wants to ride Sierra when she gets tossed after that six-foot miracle jump or thinking it's chivalrous and caring or whatever.
  • Brad is not in this book at all, but he's doing plenty of things that our wonderfully wholesome characters can't stop talking about. What I'm trying to wrap my brain around is why Ashleigh went to his wedding in the first place. I had to stop reading for a moment as I kept thinking about Ashleigh shopping for a wedding gift, and really the whole image was too much.
  • Why on earth does Clay Townsend drive a Jeep Cherokee?
  • There are a lot of exclamation marks in this book. Usually followed by the word "cried" so everyone comes off as exceptionally whiny and loud. Not a good combination.
  • At the end of the book, when Sierra comes in second to the jockey who made disparaging comments about Samantha and Sierra's ability, the jockey sort of offers an apology and a comment on how it's Sierra's "lucky day" (which it is, quite frankly). Samantha comes back with: "Sierra did it with heart and courage" and I almost wanted to slap her for the poor guy.
The most refreshing thing about this book: Sierra doesn't win. It was nice to see coming in second and being okay with it was within the capability of these people, because you don't see it often.

Next up: Brad vs. Ashleigh, redux! Are you ready for it? Oh, I know you are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

once upon a time, i came across the exact photo that this cover was based on. i admit that i squealed a little bit.