Sep 15, 2008

If Harlequin had gotten its hands on Thoroughbred...this would have happened.

Flirting With Trouble
Thoroughbred Legacy #1
by Elizabeth Bevarly
Published: 2008

I should begin by admitting that I've known about this "mini-series" for a while. As in I've known about it before it was actually published, which was in July. And September. And this coming December. It's twelve books long. Yes, twelve. TWELVE. And they all involve horse racing. Of course I knew about this. Would I be doing this blog any favors if I didn't?

So, here's the story. My library doesn't have these titles because there are a lot of them and they are very new. Convinced that my library system, being gigantic and weirdly on top of things, would purchase these items as soon as I requested them (I mean, they managed to buy me Dead Heat, so I had reason for being optimistic), I was sorely disappointed when no one really jumped on my requests this time around. That was back in, you know, July. The other day, I found myself in a Meijer (which means I was in Detroit, but that's a whole other story). Whilst wandering around the book section, I found myself surrounded by novels involving horse racing. Surrounded. It was one of those moments I'll never have again, and I started to grin like a maniac to myself, which I had to suppress as best I could, which didn't work. So I was basically as giddy as a person can be in a Meijer. Giving in to my most base instinct (which is to buy any book I really want if it's under $4), I gathered up three of these Thoroughbred Legacy books and grinned my way to self-check out, because like hell I was going to let anyone actually see me purchasing them. This worked wonderfully. While perusing my findings, I noticed that they really were a sort of series about this Preston family, so I gave in even further and bought the first one in the series, Flirting With Trouble, in ebook form.

So here we are. I have completely lost it and actually bothered to buy a Harlequin romance novel in ebook form, which I have never bothered with before because it seems so...not like me. But wait, it gets worse...

Publicist Marnie Roberts knows bad days--and today is the worst. A ruined suit, a broken heel... and her client just shot a man. Even worse: the victim is the father of a man Marnie knows a little too well....

Eight years ago Marnie experienced seven days of bliss with Australian horse trainer Daniel Whittleson. But after good times, hot sex and what she thought was true love, Daniel disappeared without a goodbye. Now Marnie is going Down Under to defend her trigger-happy client...and finally confront the man she's never been able to forget.

Right about now, I imagine Claire and Charlotte completely understand where my mind is. And no, it's not in the gutter. Although it may be close to that, considering this is a Harlequin book. Actually, I have a bit of an interest that boarders on slight obsession with Australia, and given that I've never been there and have met very few Australians, I cannot say with any certainty why this interest even exists (plus I'm an American. Do Americans even pay attention to Australia? No. The answer is a definite no.) Nevertheless, exist it does, and now I have found what I have been looking for: a horse racing novel set in Australia. Never mind that it's Harlequin. That's just a really horrible bonus, as far as I'm concerned.

Now that all of that is out of the way, let's begin, shall we?

Daniel is the trainer at Quest Stables, the biggest Thoroughbred farm in Kentucky, owned by these people called the Prestons (we'll get back to them later, because they're like the Brady family of Days of our Lives). Immediately we are treated to the whole grew-up-poor-but-not-really background most of our main male leads have in these sort of books. Daniel was born in Australia, but his mom was American, and his dad was sort of awful in the parent role, so when Daniel's mom died he had to go deal with his father's inability to parent effectively. Consequently Daniel has issues regarding being successful in life. Enter the Pacific Classic. Back when Daniel was 24 he had this horse that was the favorite in the Pacific Classic (in Daniel's world, the Pacific Classic is a forerunner to the Kentucky Derby, which anyone with Google could tell you it is not, but whatever). So Daniel thinks back on his time in San Diego, ruing the day he met Marnie Roberts, the young college grad who was rich and therefore "lonely." Daniel and Marnie have great sex for something like a week, and it's so great that he forgets about the Pacific Classic and the horse comes in eighth. Therefore women = bad career moves in Daniel's head, and he writes Marnie a pathetic little note and gets the hell out of dodge, determined to never again let anything come between him and his work. It is eight years later (making Daniel 32, the universally accepted romance novel age for all male leads). Then some official calls from Australia to tell him his dad has been shot. Shocked, Daniel decides to go home.

Now, to Marnie. She's a PR person at some firm in San Diego. Her dad went bankrupt. She has no more money. She's hired to represent the woman that shot Daniel's dad. For some reason I guess Sydney PR firms are not good enough for this woman who lives in the Hunter Valley, thousands of miles away from San Diego. Well, Marnie jumps on the plane to Sydney and angsts some about her nonexistent relationship with Daniel.

The two meet in the hospital in a place called Pepper Flats, a fictionalized Scone, and Marnie totally lies through her teeth about why she's there. This gives Daniel a chance to attempt to explain that San Diego blip in his life, and then before you know it they're in a dark hotel room and his face sort of crashes into her mouth. Oops. She puts a stop to that. Later, Daniel sees her meeting with Louisa, the woman that shot his father, Sam. You see, the thing is Louisa and Sam are both morons and can't really remember the story of how she accidentally shot him. So they're both pressing charges on each other, she saying he trespassed and he saying she's a gun-waving lunatic. All of this is over a lake called Lake Dingo (I kid you not), which you'd think, given that this property has been in Louisa's family for "generations" that they'd have a pretty clear cut idea of where the property lines are. Nevertheless, they're all about feuding. So Daniel catches Marnie talking with Louisa and all hell breaks loose. She throws his actions in San Diego in his face a lot, and he's still pretty annoyed about Marnie trying to make his dad look like the devil (which, actually, she never really does).

Marnie eventually moves into Louisa's mansion in the Hunter Valley, and Daniel moves into his dad's house for the duration while he's recovering. Marnie finally gets Louisa to tell her what the hell happened with the gun (she sort of drew the gun and pointed it at Sam, and Sam didn't like that so he sort of jumped at her, and while they were struggling it went off...like, how hard is that to remember?) and she convinces Louisa to drop her charges if Sam drops his and eventually they all drop the charges and all is well. Except Louisa is still being shunned by the Hunter Valley community, and that totally isn't going to fly because there is a gala, people! A charity gala that will benefit small, crippled children! Of course, no one wants to go to a charity gala supported by a gun-wielding maniac, so Marnie has to fix this. This leads to the "Kentuckian Prestons" arriving out of no where in Sydney because there is another fictional race held at Rosehill that they simply must see for some reason. Marnie convinces the Prestons to come to the event because the "Australian Prestons" will be there! (These Preston people are all over the place...they're like ants, apparently.) Only the Kentuckians and the Australians haven't been getting along lately...or at all...or something. Nevertheless, one of them says okay, and so it is okay. The gala is saved because a lot of Australians really care if some Kentucky people show up, I guess. I...don't get it.

Well, anyway. At the gala, Marnie and Daniel start making out in the conservatory, and they're interrupted by Louisa, who screams Jezebel a lot and fires Marnie. Marnie is therefore fired from her job in San Diego. But wait! Right here, the Quest Stables wonder horse, Leopold's Legacy, who was supposed to win the Triple Crown in a walk, is suddenly under scrutiny! His sire may not be who they all thought he was, or some such, which is the end of the world. Because apparently they've been breeding this horse? Which makes no sense. And all of this would mean that these people don't know what they're doing (a fairly logical bet) and Quest Stables could wind up bankrupt and sold to developers, the absolute worst thing ever, as indicated by Chance Meeting. So we have to save the farm!

Everyone runs back to Kentucky, and Marnie spends all her time doing PR for the farm and eating barbecue. Daniel keeps angsting over Marnie, and she keeps angsting over him. There's even a little angsting over the fact that the Prestons stick her in a cabin next to his on the farm. Holy hell! She's, like, sleeping and taking showers and presumably being naked while taking showers within twenty feet of him! What will Daniel do? Well, first an angry reporter with a gambling problem has to rip into the matriarch of the Preston family in an interview. This leads to what every good Kentuckian does when faced with a problem: pull out the bourbon. This leads to sex. I'm not sure what was going on during that part...they were really all over the place. I imagine it was a bit messy. I...am going to stop imaging now. This leads to a marriage proposal. Then Daniel decides he doesn't want to live in Kentucky anymore because his dad's bullet wound gets infected, so he goes back to Australia to work for the Australian Prestons, and Marnie sets up her own PR firm in Hunter Valley, and Louisa apologizes for calling Marnie a Jezebel. The End.

  • Elizabeth calls a two-year-old a stallion on the first page. For some reason, I can't abide this.
  • Summer wasn’t the busiest time of the year for Thoroughbred trainers, but neither was it in any way slow. What? This sentence coming along right in the space between the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, while this Daniel guy has a possible Triple Crown winner in his barn?
  • ...the Belmont Stakes were less than two weeks away. The Belmont Stakes is a singular noun. I don't care what your word processor was telling you, Elizabeth.
  • "I mean, a guy who followed his dad to jobs in Australia and England and Canada when he was a teenager, settling in a quiet state like Kentucky? Who would’ve guessed?” Is she serious? She's shocked that a guy who grew up racing horses in Australia, England and Canada would wind up in Kentucky? Seriously?
  • A woman traveling alone couldn’t be too careful, he’d told her. Even in small towns. I don't know what's more annoying. That she can't find her way through a town with 5,000 people in it, thereby enabling him to drive her to her hotel, or that he thinks she's not capable of handling herself "even in small towns."
  • He’d thought he could take Little Joe to the Kentucky Derby and be one of the youngest trainers ever to win that race. That would be difficult when you're running your horse in the Pacific Classic, run in August for three-year-olds and up. Just sayin'.
  • “I don’t abide that Ms. nonsense. Either a woman is married or she isn’t. There’s no reason to blur the line.” Sigh. Yes, either a woman has a man or her life is a meaningless void. To be fair, that's the purportedly evil, tough-as-nails 80-year-old woman the main female character is representing talking. However, this doesn't stop me from being remarkably disgusted.
  • Amorous. This is another word I hate. Who uses this word? It's like the word slumber. It's lazy, is what it is.
  • Elizabeth seems to think that this Leopold's Legacy horse, a three-year-old that is running in the Triple Crown races, is also an active sire. Elizabeth, this is so wrong I don't know if I have any other option but to wish someone takes this book and smacks you in the back of the head with it.
  • Around the huge bonfire that always ended the Preston shindigs, the family’s Irish heritage came to the surface, and the stories began. God damn it. Can't people have English or Scottish or something more interesting than Irish heritage for once in these books?
  • Let it be known that I do not consider the word "fanny" a serious one.

So, that's that. It was actually pretty boring, and outside of the drama with this Legacy horse it was a very dull attempt at a set up for the eleven books that follow this (because we have to know how the country singer and the stock car driver are related to this, right? and don't worry, I will explain them when I get there...in like six or seven books). What I find interesting is that practically everyone is single. Everyone. Except for the uninteresting (read: old) people.

Next in the series is Biding Her Time, about Audrey Griffin (that should sound familiar, and if it doesn't, she doesn't like wearing dresses either), the Quest Stables blacksmith, somehow finding herself in Australia and dealing with Shane Preston, one of the Australian Prestons who apparently makes wine. Sounds like fun. HOWEVER, next in my considerably intimidating stack of books, is Wild Horse Summer. Not to be confused with A Summer of Horses, which will be after that. Then there's Legends Lake (for Nienna) and Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen. Without Wonder is pending.

And that, my friends, is all.

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