by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1994
I'll say one thing up front. It's pretty difficult to take this book seriously when its whole premise is incorrect. However, despite the whole problem of Shining not being any relation to Wonder in a sense that knowledgeable people would recognize, I still enjoyed this installment much more than others.
It's a bit ho-hum, isn't it? Not a lot going on, but it's got the main players involved. I'm left wondering why Shining is wearing a bridle in the middle of a pasture, and I don't know what is going on with Samantha's shirt. Wonder (if that is Wonder) looks a little half thought out. My favorite part of the cover has always been that nondescript chestnut mare and foal in the background.
Well, let's get the plots out of the way.
A horse for keeps?
Samantha McLean has been around horses all her life, but she's never had a horse of her own. So she's overjoyed when Ashleigh Griffen and Mike Reese give her Shining, the half sister of one of the greatest race horses of all time, Ashleigh's Wonder. It's her job to turn the sickly, neglected horse into a winner, and she's got her work cut out for her. Shining is stubborn and difficult, and it looks as though she'll never race.
Then a little girl named Mandy, who cannot walk, falls in love with Shining, and the filly's training suddenly improves. But as Shining prepares for her first race, Mandy's parents make Samantha a stunning offer. Must Samantha give up on the only horse she's ever owned?
The book opens up with Mike returning to Whitebrook with a few horses from a bankruptcy sale. One of them is Shining, a "half-sister" to Wonder, which Mike bought specifically because she's Wonder's half-sister. There's all this talk about how she could have been slaughter-bound as she's in such horrible shape, and so Mike rescues her and reveals that she's Wonder's half-sister and how they just had to have her despite her condition and how she might never race. Then he reveals her parentage. Shining is by Townsend Pride out of a mare called Brite Morn, who is apparently a granddaughter of Bold Ruler. So everyone oohs and aahs over this, remarking again that she's Wonder's half-sister! Only the thing is she isn't. Being related through the same sire doesn't make horses half-siblings. At all. Moving on.
So Mike and Ashleigh give Shining to Samantha, who then goes through the whole book retraining Shining to race.
Apparently Samantha doesn't know how to not play favorites with the Pony Commandos, and so all of a sudden Mandy is everywhere. She's at Whitebrook watching the works, meeting Shining, declaring her love for Shining, and riding Shining. I couldn't help thinking that putting a six-year-old handicapped child on a barely three-year-old racehorse would be a bad idea, but naturally all Whitebrook horses are well-behaved with children so the whole thing was executed without a problem. Naturally. Then, because Mandy is also rich, her parents decide to buy Shining from Samantha. Angst ensues over trying to decide who Shining is meant for and there was a bunch of talk about special bonds and etc until Samantha decides to sell Shining. Just when she decides to sell, Mandy's parents call up and inform Samantha that their idea was (obviously) kind of stupid and they've decided to buy a pony instead.
Maybe it was Ian's talk with Samantha about, you know, not having sex with Tor while he's gone at Gulfstream that has me pretty convinced about this, but if Samantha was a virgin before this book she certainly isn't one by the time Wonder's Sister ends. The love-love-love! crap was ratcheted up several notches since Tor was described as "trimly muscular" in Pride's Last Race, and throughout Wonder's Sister there are enough lingering kisses and make-out sessions and terms of endearment to throw this book into the young adult category.
- I loved Brad in this book. Probably because he acts like the Brad I always wanted him to be from cover to cover. He's realistic, he doesn't say anything remarkably evil, and he's the picture perfect definition of cool confidence. Lavinia, you know, is still a crazy witch, but Brad is definitely what I always wanted to see.
- Suddenly Tor has a sense of humor. I don't know where it came from, but it's refreshing. I warmed up a little bit toward him in this book, unfortunately.
- Soda. Everyone is drinking it.
- Perhaps I can forgive Joanna Campbell this, as she (as far as I know) never lived in the south, but you don't wear suits and tea-length dresses to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Especially not in Kentucky.
- Pride gets a bit lost in this book. He gets a couple of pages in the limelight, but it's really shifted off of him dramatically. Although I do like Shining, and I was pretty tired of Pride, so while I find it interesting that Samantha doesn't attempt to divide her time at all I'm not really caring either.
- Leggings. Leggings, big t-shirts, and flowery shorts. I never want to have to go through this fashion again. Please, please let it stay in the 90s.
- You know, I never really liked Mandy. Plus, I don't know what her point is. If she was six years older she'd be the new main character, but she's only turning seven in this book. Completely out of the age range for our characters. So what on earth is the point to having her be such a huge part of Samantha's life in this book? Other than reaffirming that Samantha is selfless and perfect?
- Samantha should have said no immediately to selling Shining. There's no reason a seven-year-old child should have a race horse. Really. Just. . .really.
- But it's all okay! Shining wins her maiden race and all is right in the world.
So, I liked this book. I liked it more than all the Wonder's Pride books combined. Quite possibly because there was no Lavinia vs. Ashleigh cat fighting and irritating squabbling. No one looks good when that's happening and it was getting so old so fast because it was all insane and made no sense.
Now I've got a quandary. We all know who appears in a box stall in the next book. I can jump into the era of she-who-will-not-be-named, or I can put that off a little bit by going in publication order and reading Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle next. Even though it confuses the time line and jumps forward two years, which I'll then have to backtrack when I get to #12 Shining's Orphan. So what will it be? Cindy or the crazy eventing dream? Hum. Cindy. . .crazy eventing dream. . .Cindy. . . .
Okay, Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle it is.