Thoroughbred Legacy #5
by Barbara Dunlop
Reporter Julia Nash has waited years to join the top ranks of investigative journalists. When a trip to Dubai reveals the key to a mystery in the world of Thoroughbred racing, Julia finds her chance. But then she's caught snooping…and held in the sole custody of Lord Harrison Rochester!
As long as it takes. That's what Harrison vows when he keeps Julia at his desert estate. He'll discover what the beauty has been up to—even if the search leads to an attraction neither expected. But when Julia's safety is compromised, they must say goodbye…or "I do."
I debated over whether or not to post this synopsis, because it's just so stupid it makes my head hurt. Okay, actually, when I bought this I bought it because of this synopsis. I'll admit that much. It made me laugh out loud in the grocery store, where I was standing shamelessly in front of a Harlequin novel display. (I was in Detroit. I didn't know anyone who wasn't related to me. It was okay.) I wanted this book to be a really awful Stockholm Syndrome crazyfest that happened to involve horses (somehow) and instead...oh, instead. Instead I got the most awesome romance novel that I've ever read. I actually stayed up into the early hours of morning to finish this thing, and that sort of obsessive behavior is usually reserved for the most awesome of books. Books that are not romances. Or horse books, as it turns out. Usually.
I know! That was unexpected. So let's just start. Because I might like this book a whole damn lot, but it's so insane that I do have to recap it. Julia Nash is at Nad al Sheba, doing something related to Quest and her Equine Earth (think Thoroughbred Times) job when she sees a horse that is the spitting image of Leopold's Legacy, the horse with father issues. Previous experience with Leopold's Legacy look alikes lead me to believe this horse is a plain bay, but this time out he's a distinctive dun with a flaxen tail. Well, whatever. Stunned, Julia goes to take a picture of the horse and is thwarted by security and this creepy guy with the end of his nose cut off. She is informed that this horse is Millions to Spare, owned by Cadair Racing. Julia, trying to be good at investigative reporting, climbs into the Cadair trailer to get a saliva sample from the horse, only to get stuck in the trailer and accidentally transported all the way back to Cadair, where she is discovered and hauled off to jail.
Jail in Dubai is glorious. No, actually, they strip search her and take away all her clothes, leaving her with a cotton cover up of some sort. Julia spends the rest of her time contemplating whether or not to pee in the drain, because no one seems interested in her bodily functions and she has no other option.
Now we get to meet Harrison and his lawyer friend, Alex. Because Harrison is English and apparently a diplomat, he's hosting this meeting over a pipeline or whatnot that was important for, like, a page. Because Julia shows up in his horse trailer, and this meeting is coming up, he comes to the stunning conclusion that Julia is a secret operative with the CIA. I know, right? It can't get better than this. For whatever reason, Harrison decides to bribe the police and get Julia put in his custody. Because it's more convenient for him to watch her just in case she does turn out to be a spy, in which case he's totally prepared to handle her when he willingly brings her into his home, the place she was (according to his logic) trying to get into in the first place? Either Harrison is remarkably hands on or he's insane. Because this book is so awesome, it's got to be the former.
Anyhoo, he goes and gets Julia, telling her that she'll be placed in his care until he feels convinced she's no threat, or some such. Julia immediately requests a phone, and he decides that, you know, he'd like to not let a potential spy have access to a phone. Instead he has her write down all her contacts and then tells her that he'll have his assistant tell, like, her family and all her friends, that she met a guy and would really like to whore around Dubai. He comes up with this plan because he's somehow found out that she was wearing a thong before the strip search, resulting in this gem of a conversation:
"You think that because I wear a thong I'll jump into bed with a man I just met?"
"I think your underwear was designed to share."
"Not with an insufferable bastard like you."
"But, Julia. Since your friends have never met me, they won't know I'm an insufferable bastard, will they?"
Oh, point taken, Harrison. Then he does super secret diplomat things, like checking out her magazine's website. Indeed Julia is a reporter, but then that could be a cover! He decides to keep her at his Dubai palace (because he has a Dubai palace) just in case. The next day, Julia decides that she's going to keep on not telling him that she thinks Millions to Spare and Leopold's Legacy are somehow related, and decides to do an impromptu interview that he just decides to go along with. Here we discover his full name and title is The Right Honorable Lord Harrison William Arthur Beaumont-Rochester Baron Welsmeire. And this pops up more than you might think. After this enlightening conversation, Julia runs into Millions to Spare in the stable and rips out some of his hair, because she now only owns whatever she left the jail in and therefore lost her previous sample. And then the horse dies, provoking Harrison into a fit that finally gets Julia to come out with her real reason behind all of this.
So everyone's on the same page. Finally. Harrison and Julia go to the Preston's hotel to sort things out and give Julia her life back, leaving Alex and Harrison's fiancee to be, Brittany, alone to bitch at each other. Something to Talk About (horse from previous book) runs in the Sandstone Derby and wins, during which Harrison tells everyone that Millions to Spare and Leopold's Legacy are related, resulting in some minor plot. Julia decides to stick around in Dubai until she can gather enough information to write a fantastic piece, only to discover that the police feel they haven't been bribed well enough and are out looking for her again. She tries for the airport, only to run back to Harrison, resulting in the most amazing romantic action sequence since Romancing the Stone. No. Really.
Anyway, that party/meeting is happening when Julia arrives. The police are not far behind her, so Harrison decides to drive her out into the desert, but not before Brittany decides that she has to swap clothes with Julia in order to serve as a proper decoy. Alex and Brittany ride off on horseback, leaving Julia in this silver evening gown...in which she is going to evade police! Fantastic. Harrison (also in a tux, I should mention) and Julia drive off into the desert, starting a police chase that doesn't end until they hit full on sand dunes. Alex and Brittany, because they are the second romantic couple in this book, and also happen to be awesome, ride their horses to a shack and then call a taxi to go to some city...but I'll get back to them in a minute, because Harrison and Julia are fending off desert raiders on camels and horses! In evening wear! Oh my God.
Actually, they just go faster than horses and camels can travel, leaving the raiders behind. Although they do notice that the guy with no nose was among the raiders, looking threatening. Wow, a double pronged threat. Police and crazy mob/raiders...all after Julia for seemingly no reason. Anyway, Harrison and Julia wind up at this oasis and spend some time with one of his people's relatives. There they decide that they should really have sex, because we've gone a lot of pages without sex, and this is a romance novel. So sex happens, and he spontaneously starts muttering French, and she spontaneously understands him, to which he's all shocked and she asks him if they could just blame the adrenaline. Then this conversation:
"I mean, have you ever..."
"Had sex like that."
"You mean in French?"
"I didn't realize you spoke French."
"You're not going to tell me you just had the most incredibly mind-blowing experience of your life, are you?"
"Are you the kind of guy who needs to hear that?"
"It must have been the adrenaline."
Just in case you're curious...it gets more awesome from here because Brittany and Alex are at a water park. I am not kidding. I couldn't even begin to embellish this because this book is just that hilarious. So, yeah, Brittany and Alex are buying swim suits, and he challenges her to wear the most hideous thing he can find, which she totally accepts because she's into one upping him at any opportunity. So she wears his choice and knocks him dead in it, of course. And they, like, go on water slides. And apparently this is sexy or something. I was astonished. Amazed. I would read it again. It totally beat out that time in that other romance novel where the main couple went to Toys R Us.
But back to Harrison and Julia...they are currently at the oasis and dealing with a sand storm. Yup, a sand storm. Which would give them opportunity for more sex, but they have to talk about Brittany and so they don't have sex. Instead they decide that there is a way for Julia to get back on a plane bound for Kentucky! She would have to have a diplomatic passport...the kind she could only get if she happened to marry a diplomat, which Harrison just happens to be. But Harrison puts his foot down. No...nope. He's marrying Brittany because she's the acceptable choice, and he cannot get married to an American in the middle of the desert. No. He would sooner pack up the Jeep and find a way to illegally smuggle her out of the country. Yes...that is a much more fantastic plan! But then, the next morning, he has a change of heart. They are so going to get married in the desert. And they do. They actually do. Only if they immediately get divorced. Julia agrees and then they send for a helicopter and helicopter her passport out to be changed to a diplomatic passport, which comes back swiftly in time for them to hop in the helicopter and realize, to everyone's immense astonishment (only a little too late because they are in the air) that the no nose guy is flying the freaking helicopter. Harrison has to beat the guy up while they're taking turns flying the helicopter, resulting in hysterics before, quite out of nowhere, Harrison pushes the guy out of the helicopter. At this point, Julia decides to ask him if he can fly a helicopter. He responds that of course he can fly a helicopter. I mean, notice how they aren't crashing right now.
Meanwhile! Oh, meanwhile. Brittany and Alex decide that she should really stop being a virgin because she's 25 and clearly he is the best choice to remedy her curiosity. But she is supposed to get engaged! To Harrison, with whom they share so many things in common, like "religion, politics, art and mutual friends" (and this is stated several times, just like this, much to my amusement). So they have sex and ponder openly to each other:
"I can't believe I'm about to ruin our lives."
"Never stop ruining my life."
"I could ruin your life forever."
That is the best, best, BEST sex talk ever, I think.
Okay, then things calm down. Harrison and Julia have their last night together, during which he's supposed to find the Arabic initials to his name in the henna designs on her body, only belatedly realizes he doesn't know how to read Arabic. She informs him that she would like a Dalmatian puppy named Herman, and then they have sex. They go to Kentucky, where they get all upset about this marriage thing and how he's supposed to propose to Brittany, who clearly is not interested in him, but they don't know that, and they part ways thinking it's over. Harrison visits Brittany, who cuts him loose by saying she's in love with this American (Alex), Harrison meets Alex and tells him Brittany is in love with an American, Alex is all "WHAT AMERICAN?!" Ha ha. Harrison is all, "um, I think she means you." Alex then rushes to Brittany and they decide to get together, no matter what her father wants for her, because Alex is sort of wealthy. Alex says that they could tell her father that he "used to kill people professionally and blow things up recreationally." Because that will surely change Brittany's dad's mind. Brittany's all, "yeah, probably not. Let's just get married." I guess they get married.
Cue Harrison! He goes back to Kentucky with a Dalmatian puppy he names Herman. Only Julia has also acquired her own Dalmatian puppy, also named Herman. They meet at her cabin at Quest (because she lives there for some reason) and ponder this serious two puppies development. They decide that they should stay married, own both puppies, live in Windsor, raise Dalmatians, plant a cherry orchard, and travel on their diplomatic passports.
So, maybe it doesn't make much sense, but then it is part of this series that is not ever going to resolve its horse daddy issues until the very last book. I'm sure. So I loved it. If I didn't have so many horse books to read, I'd freaking read it again. Best. Horse. Romance. Novel. Ever.