Cassie Miller was on track to be one of the best equestrian riders of the sport when a terrible accident left her as the guardian of an orphaned niece and nephew. Seeking means to support the twins--now five years old--Cassie takes a job as a horse trainer at the prestigious Five Oaks farm where she finds not one, but two worthy adversaries--Orion, a bold, dark horse that has yet to find a rider it deems its equal, and local veterinarian Caleb Wells, a man whose startling good looks and quick wit leave Cassie unnerved.
As Cassie trains Orion for competition, Caleb, a partner in the farm, watches over their progress. A womanizer since his recent divorce, he soon finds his heart softening for this strong and gifted woman--and for her unconventional family. But as Orion's Hampton Classic competition looms, Caleb's vengeful ex-wife threatens to ruin everything Cassie and Caleb have worked for....
I continue to totally fail at reading romance novels. They just make me want to bang my head against the nearest hard object until I fall into a blissful state of unconsciousness. This urge takes over about a quarter of the way through the book, and to save my poor brain I make a courageous effort to understand the plot as I read one sentence every five to ten pages until I finish the book in five minutes and call it a day.
That's what happened here. Nothing against Laura Moore. I'm sure she's a nice lady. It's just that I've (sort of) read Chance Meeting, and I know what she's up to.
Let's all meet Cassie. Everything about her is sublime on every level you can imagine. Basically, Cassie is better than you. At the tender age of nineteen, she adopts her dead brother's infant twins, drops off the face of the earth in order to raise them, and for reasons that don't make a whole lot of sense, goes to Virginia to interview for their trainer position because everyone before her has predictably sucked. And where they have so routinely failed, Cassie will be vaguely awesome.
Her interview is essentially the sob story that is Cassie's life. Because backstory can't be subtly woven into a story, it must be smashed in your face and ground into your pores until you curl up into submission and wait for it to stop. Everyone is appropriately stunned by the news that life is hard, and Cassie gets the job, becoming the rider of the fabulously difficult Orion.
Now let's meet Caleb. Caleb is an oversexed asshole, and Laura is doing him absolutely no favors by having him be an oversexed asshole for about the first hundred pages. First impressions are everything, Laura! Your character? He's kind of a jackass. I wanted Orion to kick him in the face. I do not care that halfway through the book you made him a loveable, kindly veterinarian who sits by the bedside of a comatose dog all night. By that point I was skimming and I still wanted Orion to kick him in the face.
Anyway. Caleb learns that Cassie has been hired, and since she is only twenty-four to his thirty-two, he immediately has a fit about her being a baby, a girl, and a child. Yes. All of those things! After proceeding to meet her, however, this opinion changes rather swiftly. Why do you do this, romance genre? I will never stop being disturbed by your father figure issues.
Because Caleb is a jackass, he lays it on pretty thick with Cassie, who is instantly repulsed by his ridiculous behavior. This does not cause Caleb to pause and think to himself, "Hey, maybe I'm being a douche. If I want her to sleep with me, perhaps I should turn it down about a billion notches until I seem like a presentable man again." He just continues being a jackass until Cassie presents her mare, who may or may not have a strained tendon. And it is so super oh my god nail biting that Caleb, being a vet, finally latches on to his professional persona and finally levers Cassie's personality back into doe-eyed female who watches in awe of the strong, manly man who fixes everything by stating the fucking obvious.
And then three hours later he's trying to cover her face with his saliva in a bathroom, and because she's seen his professional side for all of two pages, this is a good idea...until it isn't! Just what the hell is going on here? Cassie is a lady!
Faced with reason, Caleb finally calls it a day after threatening her that they will indeed make love. Maybe not now, but he's (kind of) patient and you just wait. Oh, you just wait.
The next day Cassie goes running in the quaint Virginia countryside and somehow manages to bump into Caleb, who is all pissed off because she is alone and there could be rapists and molesters just waiting to pounce on Cassie at five thirty in the morning. This is totally likely! He tries to devour her face with his mouth again (I guess failing to see his own point), but a truck rumbles by and Cassie doesn't want the whole town of rapists and molesters finding out that she's easy, so she pulls away. And thus starts the three hundred pages of Caleb trying not to be an asshole, Cassie being vaguely good at riding, and everyone being rather boring as they try to establish an actual relationship built on friendship and trust before they have the aforementioned sex.
I kind of skipped most of those pages. But I did pick up on the following:
- Cassie has a brother, Alex, and Alex is the "if you hurt my sister, I will end you" type. Caleb picks up on this and instantly loathes him with a burning passion that left me cold. He's her brother, you asshole. So I kept up with the book mainly to see if Alex would punch Caleb in the nose.
- Somehow, the turning point in this story becomes Caleb's ex-wife attempting to give him a fake blow job in the middle of a stable. It's not shocking that this happened. What is shocking is how hurt Caleb is after everyone really believes that he's the kind of guy who would get a blow job in public. Caleb, may I refer you to the first hundred pages of this novel?
- I cannot believe how long this book is. Oh my god.
- Cassie talks like she's an elderly woman living in the 1950s. Based on every romance novel I've ever read, it is clear to me that none of these writers remember what being twenty-four is like.
- At random, Cassie's ex-fiancé shows up specifically so Caleb can beat him to a pulp. You have to love forced plot and one-dimensional characters! I know I do.
- Orion is awesome! And they win everything!
It's been a while since I've read a romance novel. I guess we were due.