by Karen Robards
You know, I always thought horses and romance novels were the perfect guilty pleasure. I was wrong. Horses, FBI agents and romance novels are the perfect guilty pleasure. Because they are. Don't argue with me and keep reading, damn it.
Molly Ballard was desperate. It wasn't easy caring for two brothers and two sisters, and keeping a roof over their heads. She needed money more than ever. Yet in a fit of anger she quit her job as a groom at the posh Wyland Farm in Kentucky's rich turf—and then stole out of the tack room with $5,000 in FBI cash. So when Agent Will Lyman catches her in a lie, she agrees to cooperate in a sting. She'll do anything to protect her family, to shield the secrets of her past, and guard her heart from further hurt. Molly will even spy for Will and let him pose as her lover. But soon the passion they pretend becomes searingly real as they court danger in bluegrass country and cross the path of a killer who will stop at nothing under a Hunter's Moon.See, there's nothing remarkable about this blurb other than the fact that I didn't bother to read it before I checked this book out of the library. So that "we're going to pretend we're lovers while we're actually not although we sort of are" thing wasn't exactly expected, but was totally going to happen because that scenario seems to happen in about 85% of stories involving the FBI. It even happened in The X-Files. I'm sure they're extremely thrilled about this over at the Bureau.
It's 1995. Farms in Kentucky are trying to put things back together after the '80s bubble burst, and Wyland Farm is basically Townsend Acres if Brad Townsend had been a misogynist. Molly works for Wyland Farm, which is deep in the middle of developing a successful ringer operation (trying to repay those banks one ringer at a time seems inefficient, but whatever). She's basically your standard Kentucky white trash employed as a groom, only she has her standards and will not, under any circumstances, allow anyone, including the farm's heir, grope her ass. Her mom is dead and she's caring for her four younger siblings in some falling apart shanty on the farm's property. She recently quit, because of the ass groping episode, and is regretting this when she finds a feed bag filled with $5,000 in cash that belongs to the FBI. Being poor, she takes the cash and trots off. She's 24 and has a nice ass because it has been groped and the two FBI agents who watch her taking the money on the monitor take some time to appreciate it while bemoaning over how screwed they are, as the money was meant to be picked up by Wyland Farm's trainer so they can end their investigation and get out of there.
Will Lyman is one of those FBI agents. He is seriously displeased because he's from Chicago and hates country people because they smoke and chew gum and live with manure seemingly all the time. He was assigned the job in Kentucky because he apparently destroyed something expensive by making it explode. I'm not too clear on that. But something went up into flames, the director was pissed about it, and here Will is in Kentucky spending most of his time being annoyed. He's the privileged kind (who decided to become a government man, so who knows what the hell his problem is), is 40ish and would be handsome to a woman in her thirties who wears "pearls and mink." According to Molly, anyway, who lives in a shanty. So I don't think she's exactly the best judge.
Anyway. Will comes along to get the FBI's money back, which he is successful at while the two trade barbs and he tells her about the lovely jail time she'll experience because taking federal money is a felony. Imagine that. You'd think threatening him with a shotgun would also be a problem, but good old Will doesn't seem too fazed by that. Then Will's primary...I don't know what you call them...witness or person who tells you everything for immunity...that one guy...commits suicide in a parking lot and Will is even more annoyed because he has to stay in Kentucky longer with these people who smoke and chew gum. Then he thinks back to Molly and decides she'll just have to help him out because he's threatening her with jail time anyway and she's his to play around with and place in danger.
So he takes her to dinner, informs her to get her job back (even if she has to prostitute herself, which I found to be a great touch) so she can check the horses' lip tattoos before they race, or she'll go to jail. Sweet blackmail. Molly tries her best to get drunk at this moment, but doesn't really succeed, because then he tells her she'll have to meet with him openly so she won't look suspicious and that would mean he is now her boyfriend for the duration. Of course he is. What 40ish FBI agent who's married to his work wouldn't want to pretend to be the boyfriend of some girl who's 16 years his junior? At some point they discover that she's almost 25 and he's really 39...like this makes the gap in their ages acceptable, in which I have to wonder what the purpose of all this even is.
Things happen that I really don't care to rehash because there's all that we're attracted to each other but not because he's from Chicago and he doesn't like manure, therefore we have to act all petty and pissy at each other while we help the younger siblings learn fractions and how to spell difficult words involving lots of vowels. This goes on for quite a while until it becomes obvious there's some nut running around the backwoods of Kentucky with a knife. Eventually one of the Wyland horses that spends all her time outside by Molly's house gets it, so there's blood everywhere and Molly finds it and goes into shock and of course the first thing Will has to do to get her to snap out of it is hit on her. I don't know what it is lately, but this has been happening a lot in a good percentage of books I read. Girl has some traumatic thing happen = boy must hit on said girl, like this is attractive. Anyway, apparently it is in this book because before you know it they're clawing at each other in Molly's shanty.
However, seeing as how there are four children in a house that probably has pretty thin walls and only one bathroom that is near all the action, they decide to go back to Will's super secret FBI lair at Embassy Suites and commence with all the hot, wet, tight sex with plenty of talk of centers and members and, ugh...moving on. Afterward there's some weird roving around the room as Molly discovers a condom on the floor that he hadn't used because what they had was too hot and fast and earth shattering to pause for practicalities. Of course. Because that's logical and he's not a cradle-robbing jackass, I guess. This, for some reason, isn't why she's pissed off. She's pissed off because she's in love with him. Yeah, so enter the awkwardness. She blames this on the fact that he didn't take his socks off. Yes, I did type that sentence. She could have just gotten angry about the condom, but no. We're going to pick on socks. I'm sure I have more fun awaiting me in future chapters!
Molly is still pretty pissed off for a while, only somehow she stumbles onto the farm's ringer operation and calls Will and that's all taken care off. Of course, they have to have angry sex on the hood of Will's FBI issued Ford Taurus after that, in which they tell each other that this is over and he's going back to Chicago and she concludes that she's had better. Will goes back to Chicago and then Molly's little sister is kidnapped by the horse slasher guy, whom we find out is the other heir to Wyland Farm. Eventually Molly stumbles into the guy and gets kidnapped also and Will has to come along and shoot the guy in the head.
It's eventually decided that the estranged mother of this kid knew all along that he was insane and tried to get him some help before he started killing people, only her husband tried to cover it all up and decided to take it upon himself to inject their son with something they gave their stallions in order to take away the kid's sex drive (I guess? There was something about self-medication, stallions, lacking a sex drive and not killing people somewhere in there). So instead of killing people he started to write poetry. That didn't work out too well, I guess.
Oh, yeah, and then Will and Molly get married and he moves to the FBI Lexington office. Yay for happy endings where people say "hooray!"
- Have you eaten a piece of pizza and described the experience as almost sexual? (Please someone tell me this answer is no.)
- Of course, one of the younger Wyland heirs owns a Jeep Cherokee.
- She was left in no doubt whatsoever about who was in charge of their lovemaking: Will. Wow, glad that was cleared up.
- After their make out session, Molly's eleven-year-old sister interrupts and is not at all embarrassed by the groping she's just witnessed. Instead she says, "I knew Will would make you feel better."
- Molly is so wonderfully innocent. "What just came up?" she asks as he hauls her out of a restaurant. Will is remarkably brief: "Me." Oookay, I need to stop reading this book now. Clearly, I'm not going to. But I should.
- It occurs to me that little miss white trash groom who lives in a shack suddenly has nicer clothing and white lace underwear. I just don't get how this is possible, unless she's spending federal money, in which case I want my tax dollars back.
- Tobasco Sauce is the name of Wyland Farm's best runner. I just don't think that's going to fly.
- On page 240 I have just now discovered that "Sam" is a boy. I can't decide if this is my fault or the author's. Maybe I've just been reading the Thoroughbred Series too much.