by Alice Leonhardt
Will Melanie save Image?
Image is wild--perhaps too wild to train for the track. But she's fast, and Melanie Graham wants nothing more than to be her jockey. If only Image's owner and trainer would let her work with the temperamental filly.
Melanie isn't the only one interested in Image. Greedy Brad Townsend wants to add her to his breeding stock. Melanie is sure that Image's talent would be wasted as a broodmare--the filly was born to run, and with the right rider she could win big. Will Melanie prove that Image can race before it's too late?
This, you guys, is a synopsis that makes sense. It's okay to be amazed, I promise.
However, the book itself is...troubled. It walks a thin line between annoying self-righteousness as usual and tremendously strange to the point of awkwardness. Then there is this tiny little problem of me reading it and not really processing anything that was happening. It had that "we've been there and done this about 44 times, so what else is new" feel to it that made me want to smack the book against my forehead in a pathetic display of mental exhaustion brought on by creative stagnation.
This book is about Melanie being awfully tenacious, as our Thoroughbred characters usually are. Her problem, however, is that Vince Jones hates this pesky quality about her, and Freddy just seems amused by it, which gets Melanie just about nowhere except into an offhanded conversation about Freddy's husband's Civil War gun collection. Melanie persists--tenaciously--and gets Vince to offer her a job at his stable at Keeneland, where Image is slowly being "drugged" into a stupor in her dark "jail cell" of a stall.
Only Melanie will have to start out as a groom! Because this is the only proper plot device we can dream up. Melanie is okay with this, but spends most of her time shirking her duties and acting indignant at the handling of Image when most of the employees just don't want their heads bashed in by one of her metal shod hooves. A twitch? How dare you! A gag bit? I don't even know if that's logical, but clearly Vince is the most evil trainer there is ever! Except...he isn't. Somehow he gets away with just about everything that Brad Townsend would have been verbally and ineffectually bitchslapped for.
Speaking of Brad, he is still plotting to turn Image into a baby mama and probably doing something very enticing when he's off screen and Melanie is not there to disapprove of how awesome he is. There is also Alexis, whom Melanie is increasingly suspicious of because she seems to support selling Image, and those that want to sell Image are clearly evil.
During her time at Turfway and Keeneland, Image apparently went quite mad. Like...locked in solitary for months without seeing the light of day mad. But don't worry, kids, the moment Melanie gives up on Image is the moment Image does a complete 180 and nuzzles Melanie's cheek, or whatever, causing Melanie's hope to blossom like the trembling little flower it is. Convenient? Maybe! Expected? Oh, hell yes. And don't worry, because one major convenience isn't enough in this book. It happens again when Vince randomly decides that sure, yeah, he'll do exactly what Melanie wants and send Image back to Tall Oaks with an additional stay at Whitebrook because naturally he's a-okay with letting other people train her. Uh-huh.
So Image goes back to Tall Oaks, and Melanie has some near disasters caused completely by Alexis. Eventually Melanie makes the discovery that Alexis is sweet talking Freddy into purchasing horses she can't afford in order for Alexis to collect hefty broker's fees. Since Brad has wanted to buy Image, this is a fee on the line for Alexis, and Melanie's repeated success is just enough for her to contemplate serious rein-cutting sabotage! I am so let down. Honestly, Freddy has got to be the most adorably ignorant person on the face of the earth.
And then Image does well in her training and is shipped off to Whitebrook, the most splendid horse paradise in all the land!
- Someone mentioned Brad's hands in an effort to emphasize how horrible he is, and I blanked out again.
- Image can't possibly become a broodmare now! She would be swaybacked and fat by her third birthday! As opposed to being swaybacked and fat by her...fourth birthday! Damn you, Brad Townsend! Damn you!
- I'm loving the seeming abuse going on with Image, and the fact that Vince isn't immediately maligned by every Whitebrook character in existence. If this was Brad Townsend's barn, someone would be having a conniption fit right about now.
- "Christina Reese got what she deserved. She was always bragging about how wonderful that colt was..." says the anonymous Keeneland groom who has only glowing things to say about Brad's new colt. I admit that I find this fascinating. I have a feeling that if I could poll every random character in this series, the majority would say that Whitebrook farm irritates the crap out of them.
- Why do you insist on dressing Brad in navy, Alice?
- Whoa, Ashleigh has chin-length hair all of a sudden.
- I'm glad to report that Alice has at least incorporated a starting bell with her insistence on a starter's gun. Although this begs the question: does she really think the starter is firing a gun and opening the gates at the same time? Doesn't this present some coordination issues?
- I do like Melanie's concern over her weight in this book. It brings an element about jockeying you rarely see in this series.
- Mike also practically looks like a teenager now. Why? Because he has flowing blond hair, that's why! Flowing hair is to male teenageness as baseball caps are to female teenageness. I suppose. This is all so disturbing.
- Congratulations, Alice! You win the most inadvertently hilarious racing scene award for the Blue Blood Stakes. I'm not even talking about the actual race. That went along fairly normally. It was the actions of everyone around the race that entertained me to no end. Lavinia is over there clapping happily to herself during moments of tense silence. And she says "I declare" in a way that is supposed to be serious. Melanie says, "I think someone needs to punch the announcer in his fat face" and Cindy fantasizes about mussing Lavinia's hair. It was just...brilliant. That was what this scene was.
- You know, I'm about 1000% sure that no one at the Kentucky Derby gives much of a shit about whether or not the winning horse is bred in Kentucky. That holds absolutely no sway for multitudes of reasons, the main one being who really cares about this ever, and the second being most Thoroughbreds are bred in Kentucky. It isn't a racing/breeding backwater, Alice.
- If Freddy calls Image her "princess" one more time I am going to go mad.
- "We're turning into the driveway!" OH MY GOD!
- Did David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars, and the PEN/Faulkner Award just get name dropped in Thoroughbred? Did that just happen? Why are they talking about Kabuo Miyamoto? This is Thoroughbred, Alice. No one wants to know about what your book club was reading when you wrote this.
So that was a Thoroughbred book. I'm finding it really hard to like these characters these days. Their attitudes annoy me. They are smug brats most of the time, which tends to irritate me even more when they act so catty toward characters like Lavinia, who in the New Generation strikes me as more of a fashionable socialite who believes it's always happy hour somewhere. How does this deserve their scorn?
I guess this is why I so love it when the random anonymous characters in this book treat Whitebrook with open disdain, and appear so frustrated by pretty much everything the main characters do and say. Because at this point, I honestly do not see the difference between Townsend Acres and Whitebrook Farm.
Okay. I have officially thought about this too much. I am done now.