Thoroughbred Legacy #7
By Maggie Price
Champion jockey Melanie Preston believes romance is a complication best avoided. She has enough to worry about with Quest Stables tottering on the edge of financial ruin! But when the gorgeous thorn in her side--horse trainer Marcus Vasquez--leaves to open his own stable, Melanie is torn between relief...and desire for a man she can't trust. For Marcus's dark good looks go hand in hand with a past that's just as mysterious....
Now, as he and Melanie are plunged into a dangerous plot, only Marcus's secrets can unlock Quest's Thoroughbred mystery...if they don't threaten Melanie's life!
For those of us who are keeping track of my foray with the Thoroughbred Legacy series, you might notice that I skipped a book. Typically, hell would have to freeze over for this to happen, but I have two words to describe the book that has been justifiably skipped: Formula One. Considering the fact that I can't sit through one lap of a NASCAR race, there's no way I'm dealing with a whole book about a country singer and a race car driver. Forget it. So I moved on.
Honestly, I think this series probably hit its high note with Millions to Spare. I don't see how you can get better than a plot that blatantly makes no sense, but is awesome anyway. Unfortunately for this book, it tries to move the series plot too far forward, makes a giant mess of it, and on top of it all it has a horrible name. Who's Cheatin' Who? There are a lot of awful Thoroughbred names out there, but this one is in a realm unto itself. Even the blatantly sexually suggestive names are better than this, because those are at least a little amusing.
For this book, we're back in Kentucky for the wedding of a couple of people who were important in a previous book. They don't matter anymore, but rest assured they're no longer living in sin. Melanie, spunky blond jockey not unlike Thoroughbred's Melanie, hikes her spike heels down to the training barn to question Marcus, the farm's trainer, about his quitting, because pretty much everyone is quitting Quest. At least, that's what I think was going on. Regardless, Marcus indicates that he's out of there by morning and would she like to make out with him? This is presented to her as some ridiculous Spanish tradition that I'm sure does not actually exist. They kiss and it's all fireworks and molten lava and such things.
But fear not! Naturally this disintegrates into woe, for they can only be "just friends" for the reason that Melanie cannot trust men (as her last boyfriend was actually married to a very pregnant woman, much to her eternal shock) and Marcus does not believe in love (because his daddy did not love his mommy, because she was Spanish and poor and he was English and a viscount). This information has so emotionally torn them apart that they cannot possibly get involved with other people, for they are too busy ruing the day they ever had things like previous relationships/dysfunctional family drama.
Because everyone in these books are remarkably inclusive, rich Formula One guy from book previous conveniently starts up a Thoroughbred racing stable. Marcus just happens to be the most awesome horse trainer ever, and Formula One guy needs a trainer! Wow, astonishing how that works out! Then Formula One guy buys 51% of Quest's big horse, Something to Talk About, and moves him to the new racing barn. Then Marcus convinces Melanie to come work for them so she can still ride Something to Talk About, giving Quest some tiny shred of hope against the looming threat of bankruptcy.
Just as an aside, this whole situation is ridiculous mainly for the fact that Melanie is this big time jockey who, for reasons that benefit pretty much no one, has made herself a contract rider. I don't get it. Then the situation gets more ridiculous when this random guy comes along and gets shot in the head.
You see, way back when, Marcus's half-brother bought Apollo's Ice, the stallion everyone has questions about. Previously, this horse was stabled at a farm called Angelina, and it was at this farm where the shenanigans occurred with the conception of Leopold's Legacy, the daddy issues horse we still have not seen, and most likely never will at this point. The guy who gets shot in the head here used to be a groom at Angelina, and he probably had all this information locked away in his brain that is subsequently blasted to bits. However, just in case this happened, he's backed up all this information on a cell phone. A cell phone that his son just happens to accidentally destroy! Oh, cruel fates. So the son, Carl or Carlos or some variation on that theme, runs out to find Melanie, and totally panics on her before running off like a startled deer, bound for Mexico...or so we all think. Then random guy with gun (marked by a hilariously obvious tattoo that matches the silk colors of some farm that is probably not Angelina, but probably is because that would be ridiculous and totally normal) appears and threatens Melanie. He knows her routine! He knows where the security cameras are! He, like, knows all about them! Only no one has seen this guy before. And then he dumps her unconscious body in with this crazy filly called Who's Cheatin' Who?, named after a particularly traumatizing divorce. Marcus, naturally, saves her and goes through some pent up romance hero berserker rage about it. The cops come, the cops go, everyone has a fit, and then Melanie goes Christmas shopping.
Marcus angsts some about his half-brother and this promise he made his mother about never telling anyone who his real daddy is. As if we all care, Marcus. Plenty of people don't really care, not to mention this promise is pretty asinine. Well, whatever, because Marcus mopes some more. Melanie reveals more about her previous relationship and how trust is so important. Marcus is totally walking on thin ice here, because his daddy issues are so frighteningly pressing. Really!
Christmas wanders along, getting caught up in the sexual tension that is causing lots of awkwardness. Eventually they break down. Sex is had. I think I tuned that out, because this author is all about tastes. Everyone tastes so tantalizing! This sort of disgusted me. Oh, yeah, and at some point they eat tapas. This was also a pretty big deal.
But then the big reveal comes along and Melanie realizes that Marcus is related to the guy that owns Apollo's Ice. Big shocker! Although, really, who cares? I frankly think Melanie was just so disgusted by the thought that Marcus could have an ugly and old half-brother that she overreacted. Then they race in what is called the "Gulf Classic" at Gulfstream, but I think this is probably the Florida Derby. I think they win. I honestly wasn't paying attention. Afterward, Marcus is being all freakishly needy about wanting to talk about how he's such a liar, and blah blah blah, and Melanie actually comes to the decision that she doesn't really want to talk. She wants to go home, except guy with the tattoo appears to threaten her needlessly again! Shocking! Then Marcus comes out of nowhere, because he was probably stalking her like some crazy co-dependent asshole, and comes to her aid. Melanie beats the guy with her crop and at some point Marcus accidentally kills him, which is just dandy with the police because "clearly it was self-defense." Naturally this means we don't have to go to the station or answer many (if any) questions, because Marcus is so self-assured (but apparently not) and all.
Then Melanie, completely amazed by what has happened, listens to Marcus's touching, but kind of stupid, testimonial about his mom being bitter, but more recently dead. For, you see, she had no love in her life. In fact, she was mostly used and rejected. But Marcus has love in his life, unless Melanie rejects him, and then God help her. Luckily for us all, Melanie accepts this remarkably juvenile explanation and they get back together.
Also, as an aside, why is Quest getting so much awfulness rained down on it from various racing authorities if this horse was never even bred there? I am going to have to keep going with this series, just so I can see how this completely improbable plot is eventually explained. It's easily the most convoluted Thoroughbred breeding mishap plot that ever existed.