by Karen Bentley
Original Publication: 1997
I have nothing to say leading up to this installment. So I'll just jump straight to the cover:
Cindy's expressions on covers so far:
Frightening Motivation: 1
I suppose we can stick this under the category "crushing sadness" or perhaps "heartbreakingly emo." Whichever works. Then there's Storm, who looks like some wild pony who hasn't been properly groomed for some time. At least not to racehorse standards, at any rate.
Plots:A heartbreaking decision...Cindy has trained Storm ever since he was a colt. Now he's a full-fledged racehorse and he's blindingly fast. In his three-year season at Gulfstream Park, Florida, he piles up victory after victory. Cindy is sure that Storm is on his way to becoming a champion.
When they get back to Whitebrook, though, disaster strikes. Cindy discovers that an incurable disease has spread through the area. Then Storm tests positive, and the vet warns that if they don't put Storm down, he may spread the disease to the other horses. Cindy is heartbroken at the thought of losing her beloved Storm. But can she risk putting other horses in danger to save Storm's life?
1. Storm. So we skip forward about a year in this book. Storm is turning three and Champion is turning two. For some reason, after buying Storm specifically because they wanted him to be a sprinter, Whitebrook starts entering him in races at a mile and a sixteenth. Which he kinda sucks at, naturally. So after freaking out about a loss in one of these races, they put him back in sprints and yay, he's a natural.
2. Champion. He's like Storm's polar opposite. He's being a brat and Cindy's apparently challenged in getting him to train. That's pretty much it. Just Champion being a royal pain and people complaining at his antics.
3. EIA. I'm not going to bother getting into the fiction and the reality of EIA, because honestly I don't know what I'm talking about any more than Karen Bentley, and I have a feeling she doesn't know much. So here's the problem: Equine Infectious Anemia is sweeping around the country in this book, and Storm is infected. The plot comes to its natural conclusion.
- Cindy asks Ian if Champion looks like last year's two-year-old champion, Satin Romance. Ian says: "He doesn't look like him anymore, Satin Romance is dead." Oh, Ian, way to transition! We could all learn something from this man.
- Someone needs to point out to Karen that a dark brown horse, a dark chestnut horse, a liver chestnut horse and mahogany wood are all very different. Yet Champion's color resembles all of these. Which one is it?
- How the hell are you supposed to accomplish riding a deranged horse in a "wide circle" on a training oval?
- Now Storm is going to be the fastest horse in the world(!). That makes three fastest horses in the world at Whitebrook, including Princess and Glory.
- Cindy remarks to herself that Storm was the easiest horse she'd ever trained. No kidding. Are we supposed to be awed by this?
- Storm glitters like mica. There's something so very wrong about this image. (And yes, it might have something to do with my sudden realization that Storm is like the equine equivalent to Stephenie Meyer's Edward. The speed! The sparkles! The crushing, whiny angst! Woe!) But really. The horse sparkles. I'm sure Champion is going to glow in an ethereal light by book 21.
- Cindy ponders if she'll be one of the top jockeys in the world. Heather remarks that she'll have to win a race first. Oh, Heather. You're back!
- It's Christmas! And Cindy is shocked and awed that she has so many presents. Because she is an orphan and it still hasn't sunk into her thick hide that she's privileged now, apparently.
- Cindy gets a saddlecloth with Storm's name on it and she's all overwhelmed. They did the same thing for Glory and I'm at a loss as to how this is like an amazing fantastic gift. It's a saddlecloth. What's she going to do with it? Don't all their horses have saddlecloths, or are they reserved for Cindy's special horses?
- Since when does it snow a freaking FOOT in Lexington, Kentucky? In December? Honestly. You want to know how warm it was in Lexington on Christmas Day in 1997? 45 degrees F. How much snow was recorded that month? Two whole inches. A foot of snow my ass.
- Ashleigh remarks that this Christmas is better than last year's as she almost died in labor the year previous. Funny how her opinion was exactly the opposite in Christmas Miracle. Plus, who says stuff like that? Oh, yeah, this Christmas is so much better because I almost died last year trying to give birth. Like anyone around Ashleigh might have possibly forgotten about that.
- Yay! Get the cots, Cindy's sleeping in the barn again!
- Okay, Karen Bentley has these absolutely crazy descriptions concerning sunlight. Before the Holy Bull Stakes the horses load into the gate and she says, "the afternoon sun shone on the still horses, making them look as if they were frozen in amber." What the hell?
- Storm finishes third in the Holy Bull and Cindy starts crying, wondering how her horse can try so hard and not win. Here is where I wish someone would have gotten in her face and told her to suck it up.
- Cindy utterly overreacts to Storm's loss in the Holy Bull. She literally starts thinking the dramatic "his career might be over!" line that warrants eye rolling.
- In preparation for the Hutcheson Stakes, Cindy and Storm go through some sort of training akin to Rocky IV. She grooms him, she walks him, she gives him attention from infants (what?), and sleeps with him every night. Yeah, that makes a racehorse in the Thoroughbred Series.
- People come up with the stupidest training ideas in this book. Storm won't perform in a breeze against two allowance horses because they didn't pose enough of a challenge. Uh-huh. So Cindy thinks they should breeze him against Mr. Wonderful for a half-mile. Because Mr. Wonderful poses more of a challenge and Storm will really have to race. This makes me want to repeatedly hit something.
- Just to make sure that we know Storm is special, Karen throws in a comparison to Bold Ruler. Like that's probable or something.
- You know, why does Ian even try to be firm with Cindy? Every time he sees Cindy with Champion he forbids her to work with him and in two paragraphs she changes his mind.
- Now Karen Bentley is likening a sunset to cinnabar. I don't know what her deal is with colorful/shiny minerals in this book, but I'm pretty certain cinnabar is the last thing I think of when looking at a sunset.
- And here's the infamous part where Storm beats that quarter horse at some distance supposedly close to a quarter mile and we're supposed to ooh and aah because this should mean "maybe no horse has ever been as fast as" Storm. Here's the thing: the world record for quarter horses at a quarter of a mile is :20.686. This spring two thoroughbreds breezed a quarter of a mile in :20.2 and the most recent world record stats I could find on thoroughbreds list the world record at two furlongs being :20.4. So you tell me what's impressive here, because the numbers suggest there isn't anything impressive about it at all.
- At thirteen Cindy should be able to differentiate between caution and full blown panic. She seems not to be able to handle rational thought.
Cindy's still annoying, however. And now we're walking right into Champion, just in time for the Triple Crown....