Cindy's Desert Adventure
by Mary Newhall Anderson
Has Cindy given up hope?
While recovering from surgery, Cindy McLean goes back and reads what she wrote in her diary so many years ago. Cindy is ure her racing career is over now, but years ago, it was just beginning...
Find out what happened in Cindy's own words as she travels to Arabian shores--the ancient birthplace of the horse--to work for Sheik al Rihani. There she learns that women are treated differently, especially women who want to race against men. But the more challenges she faces, the more determined Cindy becomes.
Will the injured Cindy find inspiration in her spirited younger self?
Oh, where to begin? Mary started to set us up for Cindy's Desert Adventure back in Fallen Star, when Cindy had unrestrained feelings of rage toward Ben al-Rihani for simply existing. Little did we know then, but Mary was actually plotting what is known as the Lost Diaries, or this book and Cindy's Bold Start, which explains what happens to Ashleigh's second baby, the disappearance of Wonder's Champion, and how Cindy wound up in New York. She'll be back later for Samantha's wedding/Ireland adventure/baby drama that was, for whatever reason, ushered in with far less fanfare.
This book begins with Cindy holding a private pity party because she's just learned that the shoulder she injured way back in Cindy's Honor (yay, continuity!) has raised the white flag of surrender. This means that Cindy can no longer ride (although we later find out that she can ride Arabians, which doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but I'm so tired of trying to understand these books that I'll just shrug and move on), and must now retire from jockeying. She decides to go spend a special moment with Star, only to be interrupted by Ben al-Rihani, who has decided that today is the day to give Cindy a break-up box twelve years after the fact. Her miscellaneous items include a diary that she promptly decides to read right then and there, whisking us all back to the days of the dreaded Karen Bentley.
Champion is five and retired after winning everything there is to win. (Yes, everything.) Ashleigh is pregnant, but not too pregnant. Honor is three or four or whatever, and Cindy is going to ride her in the Gazelle at Belmont, where they run into Ben and his dad, who are aimlessly wandering around looking at horses to buy. Ben is just a catch. Cindy is instantly smitten, but because she is obsessed with horses and therefore socially stunted, she is not quite sure what to do with these feelings, especially when Ben offers to take her out on the town. Ashleigh accepts for her, and Cindy, upset and given enough reason to believe she is not good enough for Ben's beige slacks and matching polo shirt (he is SUCH A PIECE OF CARDBOARD OMG), finds herself at a seafood restaurant. And then a club. They speak little, probably because neither has anything very interesting to say over all that thumping, grinding dance music, and wind up sharing the chastest of chaste kisses outside Cindy's hotel door.
And then Ben disappears from her life, and Cindy yearns and pines and yearns for this boy she will never, ever see again. Until she accidentally doesn't put a stud chain on their second most insane stallion (Champion) and he runs over Ashleigh, nearly kills her, causes her miscarriage, everyone has a total character meltdown and decides to sell Champion because no one can bear lay eyes on him again! Ever! Even Clay Townsend wants nothing to do with him, stating that they just bought this other stallion who is probably just as good as this Triple Crown winner they happen to co-own, okay? He practically leaves this message with Cindy herself, not bothering to tell anyone of importance, and indicates that he has found the perfect home for Champion: a racing/breeding hobbyist who hasn't raced a horse as of yet who happens to live in Dubai. Also known as: Ben's dad!
Fantastic! Right then and there, Cindy decides that she will go to Dubai with Champion, conveniently combining her love for this horse and her adorably impossible crush on Ben. The instant she gets to Dubai, however, it becomes apparent to her that this plan may have backfired when Ben suddenly announces he has a business trip in France. (Who knows what his “business” is. He could be smuggling women into Europe and no one would know.) Also, his mother tries to get her to cuddle with antiques and silk cushions in an attempt to be a good host. The audacity! Cindy just wants a cot in Champion's stall, because as we all know it is preferable to set up a permanent home in a stall with a potentially insane horse than it is to act like a person and be grateful for housing in a palatial desert paradise.
So Cindy sets up her cot with Champion, who pretty much instantly settles into his new space and decides he likes this small boy instead of Cindy. She goes from sort of important handler of the “godlike” Champion, to this girl who's in the way a lot. Sensing that her place in Dubai is not as important as she had hoped, Cindy begins to test her boundaries with the racehorses, but is told repeatedly (at least three or four times) that Ben's dad makes the decisions and she's basically wasting her time. As it turns out, Ben's dad doesn't have a real trainer, and most of his staff consist of idiot yes men. All the exercise riders suck, and the one jockey he uses seems to be calling all the shots while abusing the stable's best horse, Wyndrake, until it is basically a shivering mess. It is mass chaos, and Cindy can do nothing, feeling this horrible justice press on her poor, innocent soul.
And then Ben and Cindy go watch a camel race and buy some traditional tack, which I guess Ben forgot to give her in his break-up box twelve years later. While Ben is around, Cindy starts to gain some foothold with Jamil, Ben's dad's non-trainer, and eventually they decide that the only way to get Cindy noticed is through subterfuge. Brilliant, wonderful subterfuge.
It's not explained how they manage this, but they somehow get Cindy on Wyndrake instead of Mr. Evil Jockey. Cindy wins, but her victory is short-lived when she discovers that Ben's dad is pissed instead of feeling the soft glow of sweet, sweet enlightenment. Cindy decides to bolt, but not before she can accidentally overhear Ben suddenly deciding to agree with his father that women should rear babies and do laundry instead of wearing pants and burning bras, or whatever two extremes we ladies have in life. His father is touched that Ben has suddenly changed his mind, and Cindy is enraged. That traitor! But before Ben can explain this about face, she refuses to listen to him, says goodbye to Champion, and jets off to New York, where surely her connections with American trainers will lead to a rich and satisfying jockey career.
(Or maybe she will randomly force herself to work her way up to jockeying by insisting her last name is Blake and starting as a groom or whatever first. I don't know, maybe Cindy just likes hopeless challenges, okay?)
- It seemed strange to see people go on about their business when her life had suddenly been turned upside down. We're on page two and Cindy's self-absorption hits me in the face. Like a brick.
- A scrap of paper on the sidewalk reminds Cindy of one of her race falls. I fail to see this myself, but then Cindy can relate everything back to her, so I'm not surprised.
- Cindy spun around to yell at the intruder who had startled them. By talking softly in the aisle. Cindy and Star, ladies. If you don't have the grace of a butterfly as well as a hand engraved invitation, you are NOT welcome.
- "Seeing you with this colt made me think of the way you used to take care of Champion at my father's estate in Dubai." Perhaps Cindy forgot about this traumatizing event and Ben thought he should remind her?
- So "outside" breedings to Jazzman and Wonder's Champion were limited in order to keep their foals "from becoming common." I have always found this hilarious. Because like anyone is getting away with keeping a Triple Crown winner's sperm from the world.
- "Her training techniques have helped us build a solid reputation for breeding winners." I get what Mary's attempting to say, but this statement works if the stable only races homebreds.
- No one answers the phone at Whitebrook because only three people work there at any given time.
- Ben al-Rihani waits for no control tower! When he says go, the pilot goes!
- Apparently Jazzman is a show jumper now? MARY. Those of us with ambitions of retelling certain aspects of a story should PROBABLY READ said story and TAKE NOTES before jumping in with both feet, yes?
- "You really came all the way here just to give me some old things I left behind in Dubai?" Twelve years ago? Yes, this is totally likely.
- "Happy Eighteenth Birthday to me!" Me, me, me. Also, she'd be turning seventeen at this point, but why quibble with this when Jazzman is a "show jumper" stallion being bred to Wonder, the "orphan" Kentucky Derby winner? WHATEVER, Mary.
- For an eighteen-year-old, Cindy writes like she's eleven. Someone should have gone to school more, is what I'm saying.
- "Or to enjoy the visitors who came to Dubai." I am pretty sure twenty-year-old Ben just committed the sin of sexual euphemism. Page 30, you guys. Check it out.
- She had thought he was cute when she met him in Dubai. Which she didn't, but whatever. Silly facts are silly!
- "The race is a mile and a furlong." It's either "mile and an eighth" or "nine furlongs." I've never seen "mile and a furlong," because that's mixing your units of measurement and, like mixing metaphors, makes you look stupid.
- Changes: Mr. Wonderful endangered Ashleigh's pregnancy with Christina instead of the random gelding, and now Cindy can remember when her real parents died.
- Tor came by for a while, but he had to go take care of his horses. *snickers* Yes. I'm sure.
- "Did you tell him something bad about Champion so they don't buy him?" Wow, that's telling, Ian. Lost a little faith in your adopted daughter after all these years, haven't you?
- Mary is trying to convince me that Ben's dad had a commercial airliner build a cargo stall for Champion in the hold of a normal passenger jet. I don't know about anyone else, but I think putting an exceptionally fractious, Triple Crown winner in a regular old cargo hold all by himself is a fantastic idea. Also, what sense does it make for Cindy to deplane, go through customs, leave the airport, and then go back to the plane to get Champion because god forbid someone other than Cindy get Champion. This plan fails in general.
- I've gone on a few international flights, and not one flight attendant suddenly felt the urge to become a travel guide. At most, maybe a pilot might say "Hey, look, it's Greenland!" or "It's ridiculously cold in London, and let me repeat that in French!" Usually they're too busy flying the plane to suddenly break into a whole paragraph about my destination.
- Cindy decides to wear her blue and white calf-length sheath dress to the races. I am horrified of the very idea of this dress, mainly because I keep envisioning a checkerboard pattern.
- Ben's dad insists that Champion won the Dubai World Cup in spite of Cindy. It's funny because it's true!
Sometimes I think this series is just a hodgepodge of good intentions gone horribly, horribly wrong.