Jun 15, 2008

In which I Try Not to Gouge My Eyes Out: TB #41 Close Call

Close Call
Karle Dickerson
TB #41
Published: 2000

The basic story behind this review is that Melanie and Christina got boring, so I thought I'd give Parker a go.

I think this cover is pretty not offensive. Foxy looks like she should and she and Parker are doing what they should be doing in what is a correct manner. Though it looks like they're jumping in the middle of the Appalachia all dressed up for no audience, but I suppose that can be forgiven considering the general accuracy and aesthetic appeal of the cover as a whole.
Parker's Olympic dream is at risk...
Parker Townsend and Christina Reese haven't seen much of each other lately. Parker is competing in the Olympic trials in combined training and Christina is racing Thoroughbreds. When Parker meets Lyssa Hynde, things only get worse.

Lyssa, the daughter of a Montana rancher who rides her horse without a bit, has been winning everything and is fast becoming a celebrity. Christina instantly befriends Lyssa, eager to learn all her tricks. Parker's jealous of Lyssa, and it's affecting his riding. Will Parker let Lyrssa ruin his shot at the Olympics.
I suppose this blurb is generally accurate, though the hideous grammar mistakes are not mine, but the publisher's alone. Also, the blurb fails to mention that at times Lyssa rides her horse with nothing at all but a wire around his neck. God, just typing that sentence made me so angry!

Plot: I will state now, in the interests of full disclosure, that I hate Lyssa. I hate Lyssa with an unbridled passion bordering on a mania that can only be compared to Brad's hatred for anything even vaguely Whitebrook-related. It's quite stunning in its power, this hatred. I think she is possibly the stupidest character ever introduced in to the Thoroughred series, which is quite an accomplishment considering the idiots we had to endure over the years. The only real competitor is probably Allie, but as I haven't read any of her books since they were published three years ago, I really can't say.

In this book Lyssa is supposed to be a sympathetic character while Parker is a jerk, but Dickerson did an exceedingly poor job of pulling that off. Lyssa comes off as an obnoxious and undeserving know-it-all, not to mention crazy, and I don't blame Parker for hating her and thinking everyone else is insane for listening to her and nurturing an intense interest toward her that borders on lust. It's gross. Oh, and I feel I should mention that Dickerson herself grew up on a ranch and worked on one in Wyoming. So basically I smell a Mary Sue.

Moving on to the book itself, we open with Parker riding in a horse trial in Kentucky, of which I forget the name. Too bad. Christina is there with him making sure that he doesn't do stupid things like hold his whip incorrectly while he enters the dressage ring. She's an indispensable gem. Usually Christina doesn't come off as too exceedingly obnoxious in the books where she's not the main character, but that is not so here. She's basically a bumbling idiot with a large dash of bitch thrown in for good measure, but I'll get to that in a second.

Parker's test goes pretty well, except when Foxy bobbles during one canter transition. But oh well, who noticed right? Except for that annoying girl from Montana wrapped in a turquoise horse blanket who makes sure to walk up to him after his ride and point it out to him in the form of a backhanded compliment. Lyssa is already endearing herself to the reader and our unwitting hero, you see. But what does this girl, who is obviously colorblind, know anyway, yeah?

Parker disregards her as both insane and obnoxious and goes to warm Foxy up for the cross country phase, their most fabulous event. But in the ring he runs into asshole-head again. She's riding the ugliest horse ever, and she's doing it without any tack at all. She lets this hideous gray find his own way over the jumps without any interference, because both of them are of course mystical naturals kissed with the blessing of the Native American gods they no doubt worship. I am beginning to suffer already from the weight of this rampant Mary Sueism.

Parker is rightly upset by this Tom Foolery, thinking to himself that Lyssa should be given a warning for riding in such a reckless fashion in the middle of a crowded ring. Apparently whoever's in charge of this event doesn't agree because they are too busy trying to hide their boners for Lyssa behind their clipboards. Moving on.

Parker and Foxy do fabulously during their cross country test. Parker riding well really doesn't bother me, to be honest. I just thought I'd make that known. But despite his flawless round Lyssa, decked out in a giant silver belt buckle studded with real sapphires and rubies and her trademark hideous turquoise gear (apparently the official color of all things coming from the Native American West) rides much better, letting Soldier Blue casually lopes along as she sits on his back, basically for regulation purposes.

That night, inbetween the two days of the trial, Parker and Christina attend the ball thrown for the competitors. Lyssa is there hamming it up in "turquoise suede pants paired with a fringed suede vest."Parker is appropriately horrified, and while I back his decision to disapprove of this outfit 100%, I would like to point out this his girlfriend's outfit, consisting of a dark green sweater set, black velvet skirt, and glittering rhinestone clips in her hair, is equally disgusting. WHAT IS WITH THE FUCKING VELVET ALREADY SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. It must be in the series bible that everyone has to wear velvet all the time. This is enraging. Anyway.

Parker avoids Lyssa, as opposed to Christina, who races over to dry hump her leg and is amazed by the fact that Lyssa knows how to rope cattle and barrel race because she has never heard of this "western" riding that they do in other parts of the country. Then she dances with Parker and they talk about the awkward interactions that a recently broken up Kevin and Melanie are having.

The next day is stadium jumping, and unfortunately for Parker they knock down a rail and receive some faults. Lyssa guides her horse into the ring and basically crosses her arms over her chest as they complete the course flawlessly and in good time. This makes Parker the loser and Lyssa the winner and let me tell you the spectators and press (which are apparently everywhere the Whitebrook crew goes) are just beside themselves with pleasure at this development. Because the elite Kentucky horse society wouldn't be disapproving of a turquoise wearing, cattle roping Westerner. Not at ALL.

Parker trailers Foxy back to Whisperwood, still a little sore over his loss but happy that he won't have to put up with Lyssa any more. Except guess what, Lyssa is going to stay and train at Whisperwood! It would be too much work to ship her horse back to Montana in between events, so Christina helpfully told the girl that Sam was the best trainer in Kentucky. I am just as irked as Parker that this girl is going to be constantly in his face for the next few weeks. Seriously, what an awful development.

Blue has injured himself in the van, and is really upset when Sam tries to put medicine on his cut. Then Lyssa amazes everyone by whispering in his ear and instantly calming him down, because this horse obviously speaks English as well. Parker, the only sensible one within 50 miles, believes this whole thing is totally bull shit. Everyone else gets angry at him when he points this out. Christina is all, "I want to train with her because she can help me with Star, and you are a dolt Parker Townsend." This puts a strain on their relationship, and while I am staunchly against domestic abuse, I really think the appropriate response at this point would have been for Parker to haul back and punch Christina in the mouth, hopefully dislodging some teeth in the process. This, of course, does not happen. Too bad.

On Monday Parker is ready to go back to training, and he tries to sneak out of his house without running into his parents because they are evil and hate eventing. It is a lowly sport suitable only for dregs. This plot device is something I never understood - this sort of sport is just as high class as racing, if even not even more so. High society here would be just as snobby as at any high class track, and Brad and Lavinia could fit right even, even enjoying bragging over their successful son. But no, racing, with its seedy underbelly, is the only acceptable sport for them. It just disgusts me because this is basically unrealistic, but then again, complaining about this sort of thing is an exercise in futility that can only end with me hitting myself on the head repeatedly with a shoe.

After his confrontation with Brad, Parker goes to school (the first time in TB history we accompany a character to a college class, ladies and gentleman), and then he returns to Whisperwood, only to find two reporters there drooling over Lyssa. Does eventing really get this much press? I mean, really? Then Lyssa invites herself along on a walk with Parker and Foxy. Because tack is apparently cruelty against animals, Soldier Blue follows along without the use of a lead line. Parker and Lyssa have a chat in which she divulges to him the hardship she's faced, which is supposed to make us all feel really bad for her and hate Parker for being skeptical of her intentions. Why won't he get over it? Lyssa's dad broke her back and Blue used to be a mustang. Lyssa decided to event him because he was always jumping over things. She entered him in some events in the West (?) and they easily won and now here she is.

Then some more reporters bum rush Lyssa and ask her to make Blue do tricks. She's all coy about it, and Parker mentally calls her on being a show off. Which the stupid bitch is. Did you know Blue can walk up stairs? Fabulous.

Later in the timeline Parker is having a lesson with Sam and Foxy is all stiff and can't relax. So Sam is all, "Why don't we try this thing Lyssa taught me." Parker rightfully tells Sam to stuff if, and when she still won't shut up about it he rides out of the ring in the middle of the lesson. 50 points for Parker. Then Christina and Mel show up and she and Lyssa all go out to the mall. Hopefully Melanie will teach both girls how to dress. Then Sam has this brilliant idea that Parker and Lyssa should switch horses for a lesson. Lyssa, of course, does wonderfully on Foxy while Parker struggles to make Blue even walk. Can we really, really blame him for hating Lyssa and her stupid, ugly horse? I mean, really? She's perfect in every way and has driven everyone around him insane. I say that's reason enough.

Parker finally decides that, seeing as his instructor thinks he should learn from someone who braids her hair in her horse's tail, maybe he should train without Sam's help. Everyone else is all, guh? But Parker goes off in a field and rides, and Lyssa spies on him because she is totally creepy and then rides off. The she teaches one of Sam's horses how to walk up some stairs. Then she barrel races Blue in front of Parker to teach him a lesson, what I'm not sure. Sam gives him a lecture that if they're going to be teammates in the Olympics in the future he'll need to learn to work with her. And Christina is still pissed because Parker thinks her new girlfriend, Lyssa, is insane. But they still have an awkward date at some high school dance anyway.

THEN Parker and Foxy are riding on the cross country course and Lyssa is there being perfect and intrusive as usual so Parker gets pissed and jumps Foxy over a big jump and they have an accident, huzzah. Sam is mad at him, but Parker is okay. He feels bad for potentially killing his horse again, even though it was the turquoise wonder who was driving him insane. He is all muddy, and as he's hosing Foxy off Brad and Lavinia show up for some reason and ridicule him for being dirty. Suddenly Lyssa appears and tells them both off, which makes Parker feel bad and attempt to be nice to Lyssa. Except when they hug in the tack room Christina walks in on them and immediately assumes that Parker has gone from hating Lyssa's guts to fucking her in about three seconds flat. She's pissed and storms off, and Parker immediately tells Lyssa to get the fuck away from him. He rightfully thinks that Christina has no right to judge him without letting him explain, but he has to win her back anyway, you know? Parker then tries to make it up to Christina by calling her and then going over to Whitebrook at dawn the next morning to confront her, but she blows him off, making the whole thing her own damn fault if you ask me.

Then comes the huge event at Deer Springs (this name kept making me think of the bottled water). Lyssa fucks up in the dressage, and so does Parker, but when he does for some reason it makes him a terrible person and a disappointment to Foxy. This is Lyssa accusing him of this, by the way. Parker spends a lot of time concerned about Christina because everyone on earth, including his parents, are there to cheer him on except her. Their relationship is clearly over. Anyway, cross country is great for everyone, then Parker knocks over another jump in stadium jumping and loses to Lyssa again, but for some reason they make up, probably because Parker figures being friends with Lyssa is the only way he's going to get laid again. Sure enough, Christina shows up in the last page or so and tells him she still loves him and she was dumb, etc. The end.

Points of Interest:
  • According to TB history, Ashleigh was not the first woman jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and she did not ride those races on Ashleigh's Wonder, who by the way won the Derby and the Belmont. Seesh.
  • At this point in the TB timeline Samantha would not be in her late 20s, she'd be in her late 30s.
  • How can Star and Chris be prepping for the Derby already during Star's two year old season? The beginning of it? Or for the Bluegrass Stakes, for that matter? Dickerson is a dolt.
  • During this book Clay is fishing in Ireland, which seems a strange thing to do to me. Also, he is the one who taught Parker that the best way to comb knots out of a horse's tail is with one's fingers. In fact, Clay is just a fountain of hands-on-horse knowledge...except for Clay never once had anything to do with the menial labor of the stables. Brad was much more of a horseman than his father ever was.
  • Brad speaks Japanese!
  • Lavinia totally makes fun of Lyssa's clothes, to which Lyssa retorts that personality is more important but really, it's not when you're wearing a sapphire encrusted belt buckle. Why? Because I think that fashion statement says all I need to know about your personality. Like, I'm sure out West you'd look like just as big of an idiot.
  • Now PARKER sleeps in the stall with his horse. Congratulations, you are now officially a TB main character.
This book would have been okay were Lyssa not involved. But for some unidentifiable reason Parker always has to act like a jerk in the books where he's a main character, and Dickerson really must have it out for him because she made him out to be a bastard in Rising Star too. But then again, no one can shine brighter than Dickerson I MEAN Lyssa because she is a Native American Indian Fairy Princess! Ugh.


Molly (formerly anonymous) said...

I never thought that anyone fucking LOATHED Lyssa as much as I did. It's just so ridiculous. I mean, okay. Blue didn't bother me - my horse's first owner taught him to do some silly tricks as well - but the Native American worship crap made me want to vomit. And she was just such an unbearable know-it-all. AND THEN SHE GOT HER OWN FUCKING BOOK, WHAT THE HELL.

Mara said...

Man, poor Parker. I clearly should have read this one because all the other Parker books I read made me all self-destructive or bored. Or both.