Thoroughbred Super Edition
by Karen Bentley
So I know what you're thinking. First off, it's probably "Where are the posts?" I totally understand and I offer two extremely weak explanations (at least, for me): Breaking Dawn happened and I had to attempt to read it and fail, and I became thoroughly obsessed with Guy/Marian from BBC's Robin Hood, which I find creepy because I've only watched three episodes, and he kinda sorta kills her in one of them. I don't know if this should indicate something to me or not...but I'm going to lean toward not being disturbed by this. Because I am drawn to somewhat-unrequited-but-not-really sexual tension above all else, it appears (and tall, dark and handsome morally ambiguous men, but we already knew that). And yes, this means I've been reading fan fic...which I haven't done for a while so don't judge me.
And now, back to the task at hand.
Yeah, I decided I didn't quite get enough of Karen Bentley. Actually, no, that's not true. I was going to read A Home For Melanie, but then this book came along and then I got all sidetracked with Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome Who Isn't Brad Townsend and wow...that was a long journey. Anyway, so here we are. Another super edition I haven't read. It's not a horrible cover, except for the fact that I'm pretty sure that is a denim shirt. Thankfully there is no denim jacket to complete this outfit of evil. Plus, who rides their horse to a cemetery these days? Whatever. The horse, at least, looks good.
Haunted by the past...Samantha McLean has a terrible scare when she sees Cindy, her adoptive sister, fall over Whitebrook's track rail during a workout. Cindy's accident is frighteningly similar to the one that caused Samantha's mother's death years earlier.
Cindy's accident brings forth a flood of troubling memories for Samantha. She begins reliving the traumatic years which followed her mother's death - a difficult time when she and her father, Ian McLean, traveled aimlessly across the country in search of a place where they could rebuild their lives. Will Samantha rediscover happiness at Whitebrook Farm? Or will she be tormented forever by the tragedies of her past?
Isn't it weird how a supposedly healed trauma just up and becomes an unforeseen issue resulting in a super edition? Also, what is up with the blue, red and pink color scheme of this book? It is horrible. Red text on a pink background is not acceptable. Even in 1997.
The prologue starts out in Whitebrookland, where the squirrels and the birds sing merry songs and Samantha dances around in her amazing storybook forest that smells like rhododendrons and violets. All she's missing is a poofy pink dress and a speaking unicorn with a rainbow-colored horn. Why is it such a great day? Well, it's not because she's found her true love or anything. No, Samantha is an independent female and is thrilled because she's just been offered the formal job title of assistant trainer at Whitebrook Farm. Call me unenthused if you will, but I kinda sorta already thought that was what she was doing. Nevertheless, Samantha's off hugging herself when Tor comes along to turn her independent womanhood into domestic subservience and asks her to marry him. Wow, things just could not get better!
Completely knocked over that her life is now more thrilling than it was previously, Samantha hauls Tor down to the training oval so they can share the news. Only then Cindy has to go fall off of Honor and Samantha has to have a flashback and run away. Like the suddenly irresponsible and delicate girl she never really was but now kind of is. Cindy may or may not be dead (that Samantha knows about...I mean, she runs off to the broodmare barn...who does that?) and that means that Samantha's life will never be fun and thrilling and full of love ever again. What does she do about this? She cries in the barn. Yeah, shocking. Didn't see that coming at all.
Now we're required to jump back in time to when Samantha was twelve and her life was super freaking fantastic. Her mom, Suzanne, is awesome. Her dad, Ian, is supposedly awesome but Samantha isn't really too sure because she spends every waking moment with her mom. And you know who else is awesome? Gulfstream Waves...the horse with horrible luck in names. Gulfstream Waves is a former claimer turned stakes horse, which means he is now more loved than any other horse in the barn. Except for Miracle Worker, who is a claimer and is loved by Samantha despite this horrible fact. Gulfstream is basically Suzanne's special horse, and is going to run in the Donn and make Ian and Suzanne filthy rich and will somehow finance an entire farm that has been their dream for ages. I continue to not understand how this is possible...it's not like a $400,000 purse goes straight to the trainer and even if it did I'm pretty damn sure a farm in Florida is going to cost way more than what Ian, with his five claimers and one claimer turned possible Grade I winner, can finance realistically. Considering they live in a mobile home and all. Honestly.
Well, whatever, because Gulfstream Waves is the perfect not so perfect horse and he wins the Donn anyway, this means Samantha is so close to owning a Triple Crown winner and getting a baby sister that she can practically taste it. But then Gulfstream Waves has to go remind everyone that he was a claimer (and therefore was abused, because all claimers who are not trained by Ian McLean are abused) and he goes crazy on Suzanne and Samantha thinks she'll help out but just manages to get in the way and accidentally causes her mom to go through the rail and break her neck or something. I find it interesting that this role Samantha has in her mom's death isn't immediately dragged out into the light of day...but it isn't. Gulfstream dies, her mom dies, and Ian immediately has an apoplexy about Samantha being within five yards of a horse that may or may not go crazy at a drop of a hat.
Once Suzanne dies, Ian goes a little off the handle and I suppose that means he's no longer financially sound either because that whole farm dream goes up into smoke and before you know it they're moving to Oklahoma City. Then they move to L.A. Then to Del Mar, Long Island, Finger Lakes, and then to Townsend Acres. I could get into the actual plot, which is they keep moving and Samantha keeps having issues with trying to keep her promises to her father so she won't be shoved off to live with her grandparents, but it was too boring and recapping it would be rather pointless. Anyway, it's essentially the same thing over and over. Samantha moves, finds a horse that needs her magical help, and then she has to move again. Occasionally she has friends, occasionally she doesn't. Occasionally everyone at school thinks she's either a misunderstood brat or a scrubby track kid they can torment for fun. This all lands her at Townsend Acres after about a year of wandering around the country, where she proceeds to act like a very repressed fan girl at the sight of Ashleigh Griffen, Charlie Burke and the handsome Mike Reese. And then we have a repeat of Ashleigh's Dream while Wonder's Pride stares all knowingly at Samantha. Because, as we all know, Wonder's Pride is not only perfect, he can see into the future.
Skipping back into our current time, Tor finds Samantha in the stall and convinces her that all is well and requests a kiss. Samantha complies. Fans of Thoroughbred groan and roll their eyes.
- "I'll train so many different types of horses," Samantha murmured. Oh, really, Sammy? As a thoroughbred racehorse assistant trainer these different "types" would be what, exactly?
- "Finding the next Kentucky Derby winner in an overlooked colt will be my specialty!" Just kill me with a blunt spoon now, so I can savor the pain.
- Do you know, just in general, how lame Tor's proposal is? In short: "I have news!" "Well, so do I!" "Great, you tell me your fantastic news first!" "No, I insist! You tell me your fantastical news!" "Okay! Why don't you marry me!" (This is news?) "Why, gosh, let me debate for a second if this is a dream...wait, I think I am in fact not dreaming! But wait, I need to hesitate for about ten seconds so I can give my future husband a heart attack. (...) Yes, I will marry you because you are blond and like horses, which is of the utmost importance!" "Yay! Let us carry the news to the rest of our equally perfect co-workers and friends and general townsfolk!" Yay! What is THAT?
- Wow, just how fast did that ambulance arrive?
- Even though the four-year-old colt was a claimer -- a horse who ran in the bottom ranks of racing -- Samantha wasn't taking any chances on having him run away with her. This sentence suggests that not only do claimers tend to not "run out" as much as stakes horses, but that people don't really care if and when they do go berserk on anyone.
- Samantha knew that with her red hair and green eyes, she looked like her mother. Oh yeah? That's fascinating, Samantha. Please, tell us when you first "knew" about this ever so important fact?
- Galloping ahead, Samantha saw her mother... This suggests that Samantha is galloping ahead of her mother when it's the other way around. Is it so difficult to expect an editor to be able to write, or is this asking too much?
- Miracle wasn't in Gulfstream's class as a racehorse, but Samantha loved him anyway. This sentence speaks volumes of the Thoroughbred mindset, I think. That, and apparently it's much easier to love stakes horses.
- "Gulfstream's really wired." I think at this point Karen Bentley must have had a race scene outline pinned above her head in her office, and this line was required for all pre-race dialogue.
- I have a feeling even the most dense of traumatized twelve-year-olds would be able to recognize a dead body when they run right up to one and stare at it. Also..."Samantha, your mother is dead." Look, Ian, I love your blunt informative sentences most of the time, but that was poorly done.
- Samantha's never seen a mockingbird at age twelve? What is she? Blind?
- Random fact about Ian: He can drive for twenty hours straight. By himself. He is a man of steel.
- I'm torn between finding Samantha clutching her mother's boot either sweet or remarkably silly. At least, when she starts talking to this single boot...it is remarkably silly. Good job, Bentley. Good job.
- She realized she'd expected the Remington track to be second-rate after Gulfstream. Yeah, unfortunately, you know, it is second-rate after Gulfstream.
- So Samantha is shunned by the kids at her new school because she's wearing rancher clothing, or something to that effect. Just to be clear, she lives in OKLAHOMA CITY which is located in OKLAHOMA where it is FILLED WITH DUST and RANCHES. Where did she live previously? Miami. Are we supposed to believe that Oklahoma City has something on Miami in terms of fashion that we're not aware of? This feels like some sort of fashion Twilight Zone.
- Anyone notice how all of the main horses in this book win? Anyone?
- At the end, after Samantha visits her mom's grave, we get this weird discussion with her dad about how she's always blamed herself for getting in the way and causing Suzanne to go through the rail. And apparently Samantha was also pissed at Gulfstream for this? What? Wow, did none of that ever come up previously. Nicely done, Karen. It wouldn't be a Bentley book if the characters didn't suddenly state that they're over their inner turmoil over something no one was all that aware they were angsting over to begin with.
(Want more? Claire's review is here.)