Jun 17, 2008

Joanna Campbell does teen romance in The Thoroughbred, much to my utter vexation.

The Thoroughbred
Bantam Sweet Dreams Romance #8
by Joanna Campbell
Published: 1981

Because I just can't get out of the 1980's lately, my next installment is Joanna Campbell's The Thoroughbred. This book is as old as I am (actually, it's younger by about five months), the main character's name is the Irish version of mine (which never fails to creep me out just a little bit), and I have no idea why this is called The Thoroughbred...it could have been called Pretty Black Pony for all the title has to do with the story.

As far as I could tell there is no easily attainable photo of this cover on the internet. Since I have no scanner (horrors!), here's my best reproduction of it using my super duper camera's close up application. I don't know why I bothered, really, other than this horrible need I have to document everything. I could have just said: "Imagine a blond you wearing a burgundy sweater and tweed jacket. Now imagine you wearing these items in 1981." That probably would have done the trick right there.

Maura is rich and pretty, but that means nothing when she has to compete against the boy she loves...

Things have always come easy for Maura -- good looks, good grades and a real talent for horseback riding. So when she and her friend Jill start their summer at a horse farm, Maura decides she's going to win first prize in the annual horse show.

Then Maura meets Kevin, a dark, handsome boy who rides as if he was born on a horse. Riding with Kevin is like dancing with a wonderfully graceful partner, and for the first time Maura falls in love. But Kevin wants too much from her too soon and she's scared. She needs a little breathing space.

Feeling rejected, Kevin decides to show Maura up by winning the prize that she has been working towards all summer. But Maura is determined to win, even if it means losing the first boy she's ever really loved.
This summary is absolutely too long for this book. That, or I'm so used to those stunted Thoroughbred blurbs that thorough summaries are foreign to me now. But then when I think this all I have to do is read that second paragraph again and I immediately start to make a horribly sour face right at "riding with Kevin is like..." because I really do no think so. I mean, come on. Dancing with a wonderfully graceful partner? Please.

Okay. First things first. Maura is a rich sixteen-year-old blond girl from Connecticut. She's a boarding school kid at a place called Maryvale and goes there with her best friend, Jill. She could own a horse, but chooses not to because she would only be able to ride this horse two times a week, which essentially is chalked up as abuse. Because Maura is so kind hearted she decides it's best not to own any horses, despite her earth shattering riding skills. Jill is the girl with the MG and the horse family background, who rides but doesn't really care about it, and will eventually be a very spunky whore when she grows up.

This summer Maura decides to pass up yet another opportunity to spend her summer in Europe so she can spend her time at Jill's uncle's horse farm in Danbury. There she instantly bonds with a mare called Blackfire after one ride, mainly because Maura is that finely tuned as a rider. She does everything perfectly. She is perfect. SUBLIMELY PERFECT. It is frightening. Even at the country club, she swims and dives perfectly. She tans perfectly. She looks beautiful in her white bikini...really, I think I sort of hate her. Anyway, moving on.

So, the farm is hosting this big summer show and Alex (Jill's uncle) decides that Maura is talented enough to enter the open jumping competition, which is the most fantabulous competition there is ever. Maura, being perfect, twitters about how she's just not that good and Alex is all, "shut it, you're competing in the show" and she acquiesces. Soon after this, Jill and Maura go riding around the countryside and happen upon this beautiful farm. Maura, being perfect, doesn't want to trespass, but Jill, being flawed, is all "to hell with that" and they trespass. Our typical male hero arrives to tell them they're trespassing on his daddy's farm, mocks them severely, takes some time to be grudgingly humbled/shocked that Maura is going to enter the open jumping show, and then sneers at them for good measure. Yes, it does sound like Brad Townsend has traveled back in time (although, by my calculations, Brad would be about five in 1981...not that I'm obsessed or anything), appearing here as the dark, handsome, arrogant neighbor that Maura has to clash wish because he's pompous and she's all perfect and annoying. Never fear! This guy is no Brad Townsend. This guy is Kevin DeAngelo, an incredibly horrible result of everything that's bad about Irish and Italian genes mixing. Honestly, say it with me. Kevin DeAngelo. Doesn't it make you want to scream and break something? If not, maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's my sheer hatred of the name Kevin. Or maybe it's the Irish first name with the Italian last name. Or maybe it's ALL of it. Yeah, that's probably it.

Anyway. After their clash with dear old "I wish I was Brad" Kevin, Jill is all pleased that he insulted her and Maura is damn certain she'll never be one of those many girls that fall at his feet because he has broad shoulders and tons of money. No sir. She'll die first. It's exactly like listening to Ashleigh whenever she always had to state that she never could understand why people thought Brad was attractive. At least Maura stops protesting when it becomes blatantly obvious that she wants to fall at his feet like all the others.

I don't really remember how they actually get together...it's something pretty basic, I know that much. He starts coming over to the farm where Maura is staying so he can practice on his horse, and eventually he asks her out on a ride and that morphs into other things and finally he becomes the absolute opposite of sexy snobby Brad wannabe and becomes a clingy, possessive asshole who whines too much. They decide to meet up at a pool party and he's late, so Maura finds herself talking to Bill (whom she thinks is perfect for Jill, although that will never work because their names together make me cringe), and Bill asks her out but before she can reply Kevin shows up to stake his claim like the infuriatingly insecure but painted as confident romantic hero he is, which pisses off Maura. That doesn't last for long, despite him being upset that she wasn't waiting for him at the party...like, what? Around here I was getting some really disturbing feelings that he's just waiting to morph into his final stage of creepiness...the physical abuser.

But just wait! Oh, just wait. So Kevin becomes more clingy, and Maura gets more flighty, and he eventually convinces her to come meet his folks in their palatial mansion. She agrees to this, has dinner with them all, suffers through his parents mock-threatening to kill each other (slowly, by grinding up glass and sticking it in food...nice detail, Joanna!) and then goes out on a walk with Kevin which somehow ends up in a stream with them both half soaked. She gets pissy again and decides to go dry off in the grass and he plays around in the stream by himself (further proof that I think a few bolts are loose there) then romps back up to her, completely soaked and without a shirt. Because this is sexy, I guess. She opens her eyes and is all, oh...shirtless you. And he's all yes, I am shirtless. They proceed to make out in the grass and then (yes, and then...) he tries to date rape her. I know! Totally didn't see that coming either! But then I so obviously did. So she hauls off and hits him and demands that he take her home and I'm all, good for you! But she's all weepy because she loves him and really, what?

So she avoids him for a while until she decides to go swimming. She's swimming around in the club pool and out of nowhere he surfaces in front of her. Like...this is stalking on speed or something. This girl needs a PFA immediately. So he demands that she answer his question of if she'll "go with him" or whatever. You know, she's 16. He's 18 and attends Harvard. Isn't there a better phrase we can come up with for this? Or shouldn't she be hitting him again and telling him he creeps her out instead of being all forlorn when she blurts out no and he gets all annoyed so he just climbs out of the pool and walks straight to his car like he's not dripping wet all over the place? Who does that?

Then he starts dragging this ditzy 20-year-old blonde around with him everywhere, intent on hurting Maura's fragile feelings. Maura is in a state of sheer panic about this, but starts to avoid him even more and before you know it she's determined to beat him at the show, which I guess is a healthy reaction and so the show comes along and they do their show stuff and it comes down to Maura and Kevin. Like we all knew it would. There are two jump offs, increasing the heights of perfection to proportions I didn't know existed before, until Kevin's horse comes up lame and they concede to Maura, who accepts her "hollow" victory and refuses to go to the after party because she has to go sulk alone in the stable for a while about how she beat Kevin or whatever.

In the stable, as she's grooming Blackfire, Kevin miraculously appears and they make up while using all this flowery romance language that I am so burned out on that I am now positive this was a bad reading choice after all those Nora Roberts books. Anyway, Maura decides to belittle herself a little by telling him she's sure he would have won the show had his horse not come up lame (really? what?) and he tells her he was just trying to hurt her by dragging that stupid blond twenty-year-old around, and then they decide to write to each other and get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then they kiss and he tells her not to tell him all these feelings that she's been having (ie, that she loves him and has decided she wants to have a boyfriend and practice the piano and ride horses before she enters college to get her degree in music so she can become some rich person's wife and spend her time arranging flowers and doing whatever it is rich wives do). Only it doesn't matter because Blackfire approves of Kevin and Maura kissing and therefore we all should pretend that whole groping and slapping incident didn't happen and approve also.

And now, quote time!

Kevin's breathing became more rapid. He pulled his lips from hers for a moment and whispered hoarsely against her cheek, "Oh, Maura, Maura, I love you." His left hand moved her back and gently touched her breast.

Maura stiffened. She wasn't ready for this. She had to stop him before he went any further.

"Kevin," she gasped, pushing his hand away, "stop...please stop."

"Maura," he rasped huskily, "I love you...I need you."

"I'm not ready! Please..."

He began kissing her again. She closed her mouth tightly and tried to turn her head away. His kiss became more forceful.

"Kevin, stop! Stop!" She brought her hands around to his bare chest, trying to push him away. But he wouldn't move.

This wasn't the Kevin she knew. What was he doing? Why wouldn't he listen to her? In desperation she slapped him soundly across the cheek.

His head jerked. His eyes snapped wide as he suddenly lifted them to look down at her frightened face.

"Let me go, Kevin!"

I am so utterly disoriented. Not to mention? At this point Joanna Campbell is starting to make me feel dirty and I had no idea that was possible.

I need a Thoroughbred book and their ridiculous, sun shiny plots to ease the pain.


Monique said...

I am so thrilled that you have read this book so I will never have to. :P I have other options if I want to feel dirty... like Mills and Boon.

Anonymous said...

i just can't picture Joanna Campbell writing those words. Judy Blume perhaps (who i adore, by the by), but not Joanna Campbell.