by Dale Gasque
I don't know if I can shed much more light on Racing Parker, given that Claire did just a wonderful job the first time around. But I will try to point out a few more things in this book. And yeah, they might be totally Brad Townsend related. I'm not apologetic about this. Obviously.
These covers just don't get better, do they? This is a scene from the book, but it's taken completely out of context and makes Christina look like the wild one as Parker is left looking at her like she's lost it or something. Also, don't they both look remarkably pink?
A Reckless Decision
Christina Reese is confident that her horse, Sterling, is ready for higher jumps. But Christina's trainer, Mona, won't let her move up to training level. Christina feels as if she and Sterling are being held back unfairly.I've been reading Brideshead Revisited this week, unaware until I opened up Blogger that Racing Parker is the perfect Thoroughbred companion to Evelyn Waugh. Can't you just imagine Parker graduating from his English private school, going to Oxford, and then eating strawberries and consuming champagne while smoking Turkish cigars with other wealthy Oxfordites (who may, or may not, be obsessed with stuffed animals) before running off and sleeping with those wealthy Oxfordite's dysfunctional sisters? Yes, I think you can. Or maybe it's just me.
Then Christina meets Parker Townsend. If he can handle training level, then why can't she? Maybe Christina lacks experience, but Sterling has talent to spare. They're a perfect match! How far will Christina go to prove she's as good as Parker?
Well, anyway. Racing Parker is the Brad/Mike/Ashleigh love triangle that never happened. Usually I absolutely hate love triangles because most of the time the main couple is obvious and the third party is just a seductive smile and a crooked finger that lures one of them into unfaithfulness or something and it goes absolutely nowhere. Jean/Logan/Scott from X-Men, Bella/Jacob/Edward from Twilight, Marian/Guy/Robin from Robin Hood...I mean, honestly. What is so enticing about this besides the fact that I am always...always...rooting for the love triangle to break up the established pair? When does this ever happen? Never, that's when. Lucky me, Thoroughbred is here to answer my cry for mercy on my little shipper heart. Unfortunately it decided to do this about 29 books too late with a different set of characters completely. Damn it.
Racing Parker was big news when it came on the scene back in 1999. Samantha and Tor reappeared, Mona is (apparently?) marginalized (finally), and Parker (previously Ross, which makes more sense in a Townsend way given the fact that almost every person I've ever met who has a trust fund is named after their mother's maiden name...it's like an illness) and Brad and Lavinia and Clay Townsend. It's like a giant family reunion where everyone squabbles at each other before some misfortune lands everyone in a hospital. So given all the returning characters, it's got to be good. Dale Gasque sort of lives up to expectations.
However, the book opens up again with Christina being all petulant about how she knows Sterling. Sterling is talented. No one understands Sterling like she does. Blah blah blah. Mona wants to keep her at novice for a while longer. The world ends. Blah blah blah. Then Parker comes onto the scene, and I've got to say I really liked Parker, which is unfortunate because I never really paid attention to him previously. He is definitely Brad Townsend's son in this book. Or, well, he's the son of Brad Townsend when Brad's busy being awesome.
Because Samantha is back in Kentucky and I guess living at Tor's old stable that now actually has a name, she's busy buying horses while Tor is busy being mysteriously absent. I do not trust that man, and I have a feeling most of the other writers don't either considering how often he's not around. At this auction, we meet Foxglove, Clay and Parker. Clay buys Foxglove for Parker, trying to get him preoccupied with something so he won't get bored and accidentally get himself kicked out of another private school again. Parker is appreciative, but considering he goes and rides a motorcycle through his school later on I don't think he's being very serious about this promise. That said, because he is just about as dashing as a fourteen-year-old boy fresh from England can be, Christina immediately starts blushing and goes tongue tied in his presence. Parker, with his dark hair and gray eyes, is just too much for her to resist.
But resist she does! Christina likes Dylan, despite still maintaining some sort of silly friend policy with him, easily allowing herself to slip away without feeling too remarkably guilty later. Despite her repeated assurances to herself that she likes Dylan, Parker keeps slipping in to whisper in her ear to the point that you have to remind yourself that Christina is twelve. Do that enough and this book starts feeling remarkably weird. Anyway, Parker has a horse now and he rides that horse like he was born to do it, and Christina is further smitten. Then Parker's asshole and devilish riding starts turning her on, so you know it's only a matter of time. Parker is succeeding fantastically in his seducer role without even having to try all that hard. Big bonus points for Parker.
Dylan, meanwhile, is losing to Parker in just about everything. During the hunt picnic, Parker beats him in their race thing. At the hunt ball, Parker gains most of the attention and cuts in on a dance between Dylan and Christina, winning himself a riding partner in Christina at some paired jumping thingamajig because Christina is too busy being flustered at falling into him to really think about what she's saying. Dylan is not thrilled about this development, but he's got to go to Ohio for a wedding and this leaves Christina free to jump with Parker at their event whatever it's called. Because Parker is reckless (which is probably why he's so blatantly winning Christina over), his attitude starts to rub off on Christina. Christina, who tends to let this crap happen to her far too much, takes after his example and starts to push Sterling again. The thing is, however, that Sterling is relishing the challenge. Perhaps Mona has been wrong all this time! (Which, at this point, is not remarkable.) Therefore at the upcoming event, Christina goes back on her form and puts herself into training level instead of novice. Everyone reacts with displeasure, but Christina sticks to her decision, blatantly uses her mother's past with Wonder in efforts to get what she wants, and succeeds.
Only then Parker has to go be reckless some more and wrecks into a cross country jump, bringing everything back to reality for Christina, who realizes how stupid she was being. Parker goes off to the hospital, Christina discovers how depressed and crazed for attention Parker is, and then confronts the Townsends about it. They react by deciding not to ship Parker off to another private school and Parker is determined to not be an asshat anymore by doing the right thing by Foxy, who is now going to live at Samantha's place while Parker heals up and works around the barn. The book ends with Dylan still in a tentative lead for Christina's twelve-year-old heart because he's been such a good guy, according to Christina. However, considering Christina finds him about as stimulating as an old stuffed animal, I doubt that's going to last long.
Points (which, yes, have mostly to do with Brad):
- Gasque helpfully informs us, through Dylan, that Samantha wouldn't want to be around racehorses as her mother died because of one. Not like this fact EVER STOPPED HER IN PRE-GASQUE HISTORY or anything.
- He seemed too self-assured to be one of the Townsend Acres grooms. ...what? Are all grooms naturally self-conscious or is this something Brad Townsend drills into them upon signing their W-4?
- Brad Townsend was one of those trainers that looked like he'd never gotten his hands dirty. Okay, I have several issues with this statement: 1) if it looks like he's never gotten his hands dirty, it's probably because he's mainly an owner. 2) Just because he's clean we're supposed to dislike him? 3) Since when is Brad clean, anyway? He was always out on horseback before Gasque had to go Handi Wipe him to death.
- He was one of Ashleigh's least liked people in the racing world. Yeah, but only in the racing world. Excuse me while I giggle at this.
- "I don't know why he's always felt so competitive with Ashleigh." Oh, please. I've got a ton of valid theories, along with the ones that involve him secretly lusting after her and hating her for it, so I think Gasque could have gone out on a limb instead of doing the literary equivalent of a helpless shrug.
- Brad had almost messed up Wonder's chances of winning the Kentucky Derby by overracing her in the weeks leading up to it. Uh, she ran three times before the Kentucky Derby. In the course of four months. I don't think it gets more normal than that.
- I have waited so many books for Brad's return and his first line in this book is "That's the way, kid!" as he pumps his fist in the air. I so disagree with this line. Blah.
- Parker is exciting and funny, but Dylan is as comfortable to be with as Rags. Christina's turmoil over the boys reaches a critical point. For all those not in the know, Rags is a stuffed animal. I don't know about anyone else, but I think when you're comparing a potential love interest to a stuffed animal, your mind has pretty much made itself up.
- Dale Gasque is a little too obsessed with adam's apples. I mean, I'm as appreciative of male-specific human anatomy as the next...person who's interested in those things...but come on. Plus, considering adam's apples pretty much only develop during puberty, these are some freakishly fast developing kids.
- One thing I love about this book is Lavinia's character. I always thought Joanna Campbell had it totally wrong when she had Lavinia exercising racehorses. I just didn't see that as even remotely plausible considering who Lavinia was. In fact, I'm dead positive it was just another way to pin unfortunate accidents on the Townsends and Lavinia was the most convenient way for those accidents to happen. Gasque makes it known that Lavinia has no respect for anyone in the lower levels of racing, including exercise riders, which I think is far more realistic in regards to how much of a bitch Lavinia is.
- That said, I don't like how she handled Brad and Mr. Townsend. It's like the two have completely reversed roles. Brad was always the one that led Clay around by the nose, with extremely brief moments of lucidity shown on Clay's part. Brad actually acting like a shamed kid at the age of 38 or something is just not right. Clay Townsend acting like he actually cares about anything besides his work...just not right.
- "What charm school did she flunk out of?" Precisely, Melanie. Lavinia really was perfect this time around.