Feb 7, 2010

That one time when Cindy freaked out over nothing for twelve years.

Cindy's Bold Start
by Mary Newhall Anderson

I have a soft spot for this cover, only because I think this is the best depiction of Cindy in the history of Thoroughbred book covers. At least, the best depictions of adult Cindy, and considering there were only three of those covers and one of those only showed the back of her head, it doesn't have a lot of competition. The rest of it brings up some questions, mainly involving the horse and the tack. That's a huge horse. Look at all of that space between Cindy's knee and the front of the horse's chest. It's like a racing Clydesdale. Also, that is not a racing saddle. Plus, there is no view to speak of at Belmont Park, but I still like the overall composition.

What will Cindy do now?
When Cindy McLean goes back to Belmont to clean out her apartment, she finds her old diary and is taken back to the days when she started racing in New York, after she fled Dubai...

Find out what happened in Cindy's own words as she struggled to compete against the best male jockeys in the country. She was new to the tough Belmont trainers and had trouble getting rides. But Cindy never stopped trying, and in time she was winning big races on a filly no one else thought could run.

Now that Cindy can't ride anymore, her life has changed drastically. She'll need to tap some of that old determination as she sets off boldly in a new direction.
This is a really horrible summary. Why read the book now? Not only do you know what happens, they don't even bother to spark your interest. Cindy struggles, Cindy succeeds, Cindy must tap some old determination and guzzle it down like a binge drinker at a keg party... What is the point?

Well, I'll tell you the point. Cindy can no longer race ride, or possibly ride at all, but maybe not. She is at a crossroads, and must set off boldly on a new career path. Apparently in some scenario I have entirely forgotten, or most likely was just now sprung on me, Freddie has offered Cindy the job of trainer or farm manager or assistant trainer...or something, all of these job titles were thrown out there as if they are the same thing...of Tall Oaks. So Cindy must go to New York and clean out her apartment. Also, she's got a journal there, and she wants to read it so she can continue her trip down memory lane.

Journal #2 starts when she arrives in New York, fresh from her failure during all of that desert adventuring. When she gets there, she tries to get some work from a couple of trainers, but by routinely failing to actually introduce herself or her credentials during these interactions is immediately rebuffed. I will attempt to ignore the fact that she is Cindy McLean, winning jockey of the Dubai World Cup and who knows what else, who has been following around the "legendary" Ashleigh Griffen of we-churn-out-Derby-winners-like-nobody's-business Whitebrook Farm since she was eleven. Theoretically, I refuse to believe that this plot is even remotely possible, but then that sort of rules out the entire series and then where would we be? Where? I want to know!

Well, all of this rejection sends Cindy's self-esteem into a tailspin. Ben's dad said that Champion won in spite of her (truth!), and this means that Cindy may not be as talented as she thinks (despite spending the whole book insisting to herself that she is better/more knowledgeable than everyone) and will therefore work her way to the top from the very bottom. She will become a jockey based on her own merits...of which she has none that aren't intimately linked back to Whitebrook, but whatever! Yes, Cindy will become a groom (technically not the bottom rung!). And when she is asked for her full name, she will lie and say it is Cindy Blake. Because...well, this is what interesting and ultimately successful people do!

Cindy starts to work with a trainer named Matt, trainer/owner of two horses. Cindy immediately feels like she knows more than Matt, which could very well be true, but is more annoying than anything else. She meets Rachel, an apprentice jockey in search of a roommate. Rachel is the type who likes to have fun and flirt and do things, all of which Cindy is staunchly against because to have fun would mean staying up late, jeopardizing her ability to get up in the mornings to go to the track. So I guess all that clubbing she did in the last book is totally not in the cards. Cindy becomes the most boring person to have New York City at her disposal day in and day out, preferring to stay inside and...make spinach lasagna, or soup, or ponder whether or not she could get a cat (yes, really). Rachel, therefore, is the foil. Poor Rachel. She's just a normal girl, Cindy! Don't hate her being marginally likable!

Because what has happened so far is rapidly proving to be totally not interesting, Cindy finds herself a project horse and promptly storms into its trainer's office to announce that she, Cindy McLean Blake, will waste her time trying to rehabilitate it. The trainer is all, "Yeah, whatever," and Cindy goes into motivated horse story character mode with this Phoenix horse you ultimately do not care about.

Meanwhile, Rachel is seducing Matt and staying up late, aggravating Cindy to no end. Eventually Rachel falls off a horse and it nearly runs into Cindy and Rachel is shamed into going to sleep early, having learned her lesson that fun is for the irresponsible. Then Matt, turned on by her responsibility, asks her to marry him. Huzzah! Eventually trainer guy with the horse Phoenix, gives Cindy a shot to ride this horse, which she totally fails at, all the while somehow managing to never mention that oh, hey, she's a jockey and has RIDDEN IN MANY RACES, OKAY. She gets another chance, but by that point Ashleigh has ridden in on her golden horde of special wonder ponies, convincing Cindy that she's gotten a ride on Honor Bright, who is now chestnut, even though she doesn't. Awkward! Cindy berates herself while she watches Tommy Turner, Belmont jockey SHE KNOWS and still manages this charade, ride Honor to a win. She is still somehow never called out as Cindy McLean despite running around with Ashleigh for at least a full day, and blah blah runs in another race with Phoenix/horse we don't care about while IAN MCLEAN is there to watch while people STILL do not put two and two together and blah. Totally not important.

Cindy stops reading her journal and goes back to Tall Oaks, only to discover that Freddie has sold her farm to...Ben al-Rihani, that misogynistic traitor! Cindy insists that she can't work for any al-Rihani. She cannot permit herself to make that mistake again! Ben, correctly, asks her if she's still upset about what she heard him say to his father. Because, you see, he was using sarcasm. Sarcasm, a noun meaning harsh or bitter derision. It's closely related to irony. Usually it includes some taunting or wit. You know, sarcasm. It's what I do here.

Because this is Cindy and Ben, I'm going to assume Cindy doesn't know what sarcasm sounds like because she can't comprehend human emotion, and Ben doesn't understand how to use sarcasm because he is a piece of cardboard. That's the only way this makes sense.

Thrilled that all of what she heard twelve years ago was, in fact, Ben's attempt to passive-aggressively prove some kind of point, she still hangs back from leaping at him and screaming YES YES OMG YES. He sweetens the pot: asking Cindy to become partners in Tall Oaks as well as bringing Champion home so he can stand stud at Tall Oaks and potentially start mauling pregnant ladies again. The joy! Cindy throws herself at Ben in a totally G-rated sort of way, and most of us are still too stuck on the word sarcasm to care.

Sarcasm! Sarcasm.

- You can't race a three-year-old in the Futurity, Mary. Not to even mention, Phoenix is a filly.

- I'm not going to use the Whitebrook name to get rides, Cindy thought stubbornly. She would have to earn respect on her own merits. I don't think stubbornness is a merit, and after you take Whitebrook away, that's basically all Cindy has.

- Champion had a reputation for being strong-minded and difficult, but she had learned to handle the big chestnut stallion, and he had responded well to her. Yeah, like that time he bullied you around, got loose and ran over Ashleigh? Champion was kind of a jackass with everyone.

- I've seen a few jockeys I recognize...but no one seems to remember me. I would love for that to be wishful thinking, but it's mostly Mary trying to cover her bases.

- "I never thought about [Matt] being cute," Cindy said. "He's my boss, and that's all." Someone is pining for a certain misogynistic Emirati...

- Bruises and cuts heal. It doesn't seem as though my feelings ever will. Cindy discovers that the sticks and stones idiom is in fact a falsehood.

- "It must be nice to have a real bedroom to sleep in." Well, naturally. Cindy hasn't slept on a mattress for at least six months, taking the cot-in-the-barn approach more seriously than everyone else in the series combined. I'm shocked her back hasn't seized up and quit on her.

- Rachel certainly didn't waste any time. This is snide Cindy-speak for "Rachel is a whore."

- Cindy literally has no fun. Literally. Because having a social life or engaging in fun might mean dying a mangled death on the racetrack. Remember that, kids!

- Yes, Cindy, the chestnut filly has a nice stride she'll pass on to her offspring. Just like those inherently weak tendons that basically make her worthless. Yay logic!

- She hoped the careless rider who had lost the horse would be banned from the track for good. Yes, because Cindy has never fallen off a horse on the track before. And certainly if she did she could never be banned from the track for simply falling and allowing a horse to run loose. Because that would be crazy!

- "I can make more money right away on stud fees from Moon Shadow than on Falcon's purses and future foals...It's a practical business decision." I am pretty sure most people in this series wouldn't know a "practical business decision" if it ran over and smacked them in the face. Only secondary characters who are almost antagonists but not quite are ever practical. Oh, and Brad.

- Cindy writes: Why is everything so hard? I'll just let that stand by itself.

- Everyone notice how Phoenix's trainer has one priority with the horse: making sure its crap legs don't give out on her. Cindy, not unexpectedly, does not care about this at all.

- The mansion here is the kind of house I've always wanted. Yes, Ben, I too have always wanted a mansion. Besides, when I played MASH as a kid, no one ever wanted to circle S.

I will sum up this with one word: sarcasm. Sarcasm!


Anonymous said...

In one of these books, doesn't Ian make a snide comment about Cindy not writing to them at all? Who was the fool that decided that she should come back?

Also, I know this is crazy bookverse and all, but just what sort of timeline is Thoroughbred running on?

Assuming realtime occured here, The Dubai World Cup started in 1996. Arabian Challenge was published in 1997. That is distantly plausible.

Then there is a 12 year gap bringing us to ... 2009.

And the series ended in 2005.


Mara said...

I haven't caught any snide comment from Ian about not writing. The only thing I saw was his immediate assumption she'd been trying to sabotage Champion's sale, which amused me to no end.

As far as a timeline goes, there isn't one. The only time a real date is ever mentioned is the 1996 Badminton Horse Trials, which occurred in Camp Saddlebrook, which was published 1998. If you wanted to assign a timeline starting at the first publication date in 1992 when Wonder was born, that would mean the series would have actually ended somewhere in the 2030s. There's no making sense of it.

You can date it by fashion and technology, though. That's the fun part, because the series isn't exactly timeless. ;)

Ace said...

I loved that review! I always thought this book was odd, but it was by no means my least favorite.

Please review the final adult Cindy book (54, I believe)? See, I've always had a morbid fascination with her character...I have no clue why, I just do.

0j said...

I find the biggest thing that stands out in the book is:


When her shoulder starts to get to her she could go and get it fixed or get exercises to strengthen it. Then she wouldn't have to give up.

And as much as I like the fact that Ben made up with Cindy (even if that whole thing was sudden and slightly confusing) I still don't understand WHY HE DIDN'T CALL HER THROUGH OUT THE WHOLE 12 YEARS?!?! Pick up the phone, write her a letter or visit her if you have enough money to buy Tall Oaks.

*sighs* but I did like this book and I LOVE how much better Cindy looks on the cover. Someone turned from an ugly duckling into a swan and doesn't actually have a stupid expression her face! :)