by Allison Estes
It took me a while to get to reading this book, for reasons I can't explain. Well, here it is:
Melanie reminds me of someone...I just can't put my finger on it. Anyway, it's a good cover. It even makes sense in a general proportion sort of way, so we'll continue on.
The beginning of this book is basically witnessing Melanie dabble with her budding life of crime as she's quickly led onto a path that will most certainly land her in juvy. It all starts innocently enough...Melanie wants to go on a romantic moonlit ride with her best friend, Aynslee. For some reason this is just going to be beyond fun, because they can go off the bridle paths at night and no one can stop them! Except for, you know, the police. Best to just not think about that, and Melanie certainly doesn't.She's his last hope...
Ever since 13-year-old Melanie Graham was sent to live with her aunt Ashleigh and uncle Mike at Whitebrook Farm, she's struggled for a way to fit in. Everything she does is wrong. She doesn't get along with her cousin Christina and riding racehorces is nothing like riding back in New York.
Then she sees Pirate's Treasure. The powerful black stallion has incredible potential. But he's also unpredictable--and dangerous. Then he's retired from his racing career and turned out to pasture. Soon he begins to lose his will to live. Can Melanie break through Pirate's distrust and prove to everyone he has the heart of a champion?
Fresh from dying her hair with Kool-Aid (probably just like this), she clues Aynslee in on her plan. Aynslee is the type that tends to take other people's ideas and exaggerates them to beyond manageable proportions, so by the time Melanie gets rid of her father and gets to the stable, Aynslee has already thought of a) to bribe the night watchman with pizza, b) to drug the night watchman's dog so they can more easily get in and out of the stable and c) that if Melanie tries to back out of their plan she will tell everyone and get Melanie in so much trouble she will have wished she'd never met Aynslee to begin with. Basically, Melanie is screwed. She just doesn't know it yet.
They go out on their ride, which was just begging to end in disaster. This comes to fruition when the police find them trying to run the bases with their horses at one of the park's baseball diamonds. Aynslee's first reaction? Run. Melanie's first reaction? Stare, before casually letting her horse bolt off after Aynslee. Melanie clearly isn't a natural at this juvenile delinquent thing, but she does manage to outrun the police three wheelers before both horses walk onto a metal plate, which is their undoing. Milky Way starts to slip and thrash around, tosses Melanie, who dislocates her shoulder, and then one of those typical rabid cab drivers flies around the corner of the street and careens straight into Milky Way. You can imagine the trauma that caused, not to mention that Aynslee decides to pin the entire thing on Melanie, which is okay because it's all mainly Melanie's fault anyway.
Instead of facing legal ramifications, Melanie is sent off to live with Ashleigh and Mike at Whitebrook, because Will Graham decides that Melanie just hasn't been happy living in New York, thereby leading her to her hardened life of coloring her hair with Kool-Aid and stealing all the chalk in her teacher's class room. Melanie, just in case we weren't aware, is a NEW YORKER, and thus does not understand how anyone can live in areas with vast tracts of vegetation. So she decides to be as surly and ungrateful as possible when she lands in Louisville. She does take some time to nurse her remarkably low self-esteem by wishing she'd been able to dye her hair green, because she is oh-so-sure that these Louisville hicks would be so shocked and bothered by green hair. She also decides not to get involved with another horse, or ride another horse, as part of her guilt over accidentally squishing Milky Way with a cab.
The next morning she meets our dashing main horse, Pirate's Treasure. The horse gets away from Ian and does a bee line straight to Melanie, who won't get out of the way no matter how often Kevin tells her to move. Instead she just does her staring thing and the horse comes to a natural stop in front of her, which Melanie totally expected because she's so cool.
Unfortunately, she is just so not cooler than Christina, and Melanie's envy of her cousin is pretty obvious because Christina has a horse and actually knows what she's talking about and Melanie killed the horse she was going to lease and hardly comprehends eventing. Therefore, in the riding school hierarchy, Christina is on top and can afford to push Melanie, who is lowest on the totem pole, all over the place without caring about her feelings. This also means that Melanie can't touch Sterling Dream, which results in a screaming fit because Christina is absolutely certain her horse doesn't like strangers touching her. AT ALL. You'd think all that shrieking and flailing would upset the mare more than Melanie touching her nose, but Christina is on the top of the hierarchy, and therefore it doesn't. Plus, Sterling would never bite Christina. Because she is a horse riding goddess.
However! Melanie is not to be discounted! After nearly being trampled by The Terminator, she pulls herself together and stomps back to the training oval, where Ian has been trying to get Pirate to load into the training gate. She offers to lead the horse in, and it all clicks into place. Melanie has potential to be a horse riding goddess also when Pirate inexplicably follows Melanie right into the gate. So Melanie is now Pirate's special person, and they have a bond that can never be broken. Christina is not so sure of this, especially after Pirate breaks free of his cross ties and is practically magnetically attracted to Sterling. Sterling must be pretty sexy, because Pirate goes through quite a lot trying to get to her so he can superficially injure the mare's shoulder. Sterling gets a little cut on her shoulder and Ian remarks that it will need a stitch or two, which Christina practically starts to weep over like the horse riding goddess she is. Sterling's superficial pain is Christina's superficial pain! Or something.
Horrified, Melanie runs up to the house and calls her father, who tells her to basically grow up and no, she will not be coming to Europe with him, and then Aynslee, who tells her that their relationship is basically over. Shocked and appalled, Melanie decides she'll never get out of this summer alive! Or, she will have to spend the entire summer being everyone else's scapegoat as she complains and whines about everything.
Ian seems to know Melanie is out of sorts, so he tells her he needs her to act as Pirate's groom for a while. During this time Pirate freaks out during a work out and nearly kills Anna Simms when he bucks across the finish line at Whitebrook's training oval. Then Melanie has her great Cindyesque moment of enlightenment! Pirate is afraid of shadows. Yay. Congrats, Mel. Score one for your fragile self-esteem and let's move on, because Ashleigh's feeling all soft-hearted again and before we know it she's offering Mel one of their yearlings. Which Melanie is totally not happy about because she's not riding horses anymore. Doesn't anyone ever listen to her crazy ranting?
Then the real reason comes out. Ashleigh thinks Pirate is too much horse for her to handle, which now Mike totally agrees with despite them both saying it was a fantastically great idea practically three days ago. My how we change our minds in this series. So Melanie is all offended and insists on working with only Pirate while Christina accuses her of being a horse killer, while Melanie takes some time to realize that ohmigod, that's actually true!
So she's all depressed and Mike tricks her into going to Keeneland to watch Pirate race, where he wins and then crashes into another horse and creates another opportunity for Melanie to cry. Pirate is gelded and stitched up and tossed in a paddock, where he grows increasingly depressed. Mel and Chris bond a little bit in the attic as Chris convinces Melanie she is not bad luck for horses, and Melanie decides to ride Pirate around for a while because that's when he perks up. Then they stumble over a log while she's riding him and Melanie discovers that he's blind. Which would explain why he's been acting all batty for the majority of the book. Why no one else figured that out...well, you know. This is Thoroughbred. We know how this works by now.
We end with Melanie finally feeling like part of the family, and Pirate is now basically hers.
- Melanie and Aynslee glue shut the outside doors of their private school. I don't know what kind of glue they're using here, but it must be super industrial strength.
- Compared to Whitebrook's sleek thoroughbreds, all of the stable horses in New York are basically grotesque horse-like mutants.
- You would think Melanie wouldn't need someone to tell her that Pirate's Treasure is a thoroughbred, since she knew in advance that Whitebrook was a thoroughbred training farm. Kevin clearly thinks she's an idiot and says very clearly (and probably slowly, so as she can understand his big, technical words): "Whitebrook is a thoroughbred training facility."
- Naomi informs us all that she is an apprentice jockey, which lasts until she gets her first win. Which is so glaringly wrong.
The Rule (because I know this pops up again, and it's wrong every other time as well): An apprentice jockey shall be allowed the following weight allowances in all Thoroughbred, Appaloosa, Arabian and Paint races: (a) Ten pound allowance beginning with the first mount and continuing until the apprentice has ridden five winners. (b) A seven pound allowance until the apprentice has ridden an additional 35 winners; and (c) If an apprentice has ridden a total of 40 winners prior to the end of a period of one year from the date of riding their fifth winner, they shall have an allowance of five pounds until the end of that year. (d) If after one year from the date of his or her fifth winning mount the apprentice has not ridden 40 winners, the applicable weight allowance shall continue for one more year or until the date of the 40th winner, whichever comes first.
- Christina tells Melanie not to go to the stallion barn, since the horses are aggressive and Mr. Ballard hates people. Melanie goes there anyway, gets to know Blues King, and then stupidly walks into The Terminator's stall. When the horse tries to trample her she escapes easily enough, only to run into Mike. So she whips up some tears because "she's from New York City. They wouldn't expect her to know much about horses." Clearly, she doesn't know much about horses. This is blatantly obvious. She could just own up to this fact and save me some eye rolling.
- Is the horse called Pirate Treasure or Pirate's Treasure?
- Pirate wins two races with only a week in between, so I am now convinced that Allison really doesn't understand that racehorses are not, in fact, (E)venters.
- Keeneland Race Track is actually Keeneland Race Course. Because they're all stuffy and inclined to pretend they're European there.