Mar 18, 2010

Mixing the CIA with horse fiction is a bad idea.

On The Run
by Iris Johansen
2005

For eight years, single mother Grace Archer has been living a picture-perfect life raising her daughter on a horse farm in the small town of Tallanville, Alabama. Watching Frankie grow into a talented and confident young girl has made Grace as happy as any mother could hope to be. Happy enough, even, to forget the past. But the past never quite goes away. Which is why a certain charismatic man also moved to Tallanville eight years ago to watch over her.

But when violence threatens to shatter Grace and Frankie's idyllic home, the waiting is over. The ghosts of the past have returned. And they're hungry for blood. Now Grace must resume an identity she thought she had cast off forever, and match wits with an opponent as deadly as he is cunning. The prize: an extraordinary secret that only she can unfold. The forfeit: losing the thing more precious to her than life itself.
Occasionally, when I've lost all motivation to select my own horse books, I fall to the comforts/horrors provided by the requests page. This is one such request.

We start, much to my surprise, with Val Kilmer. No, his name is not Val, but it is Kilmer, so my brain came to the logical conclusion. Val is in Morocco, driving recklessly. You see, Val is being chased by men with guns because he has stolen a bedazzled purse embroidered with white ponies. A purse that I like to think looks like this. And then he jumps out of a moving truck, into a helicopter, and flies to Alabama...or something.

I know. You're thinking, Mara. Come on. Val Kilmer does not steal purses in Morocco! Certainly not bedazzled purses! I'm here to tell you that he does. But don't worry, it will be all for nothing.

Now let's talk about Grace and her genius-child, Frankie. Grace has lots of issues, namely because she was dragged all over the world with her dad, an infamous gunrunner or assassin or super secret double agent, or whatever. Her only brief moments of peace were the summers she spent on her grandfather's Australian horse farm, because I suppose her father saved that season for his bloodbaths. God knows, if I had a child and was in a gunrunning/assassin business, I'd send her away when I felt like getting involved in a massacre. Or whatever it is I do.

Frankie is a child prodigy of the piano persuasion. She can compose orchestras at the age of eight. She acts like she's forty most of the time and singlehandedly reminded me of why I loathe suspense/romance books that involve children. Anyway, she's been living in Alabama all of this time with Grace, blissfully unaware that this evil guy, Marvot, wants her dead. Or alive, but he'd really prefer dead. His reasons for this are not all that clear, but for the record I didn't really care. Grace has been hiding out at a tiny horse farm in Nowheresville, Alabama, hoping that Marvot won't discover her location.

Of course, he does. Throats are slit, rigor mortis sets in, cars explode, and Val swoops in to save the day. He totes Grace, Frankie, and Robert, CIA guy who's been looking over them to make sure cars don't explode in their vicinity, to a hotel. The next day they go back to the crime scene to take care of the horses and take their sweet time about it. Meanwhile I am thinking they should probably not be doing this, given that they just killed like fifteen henchmen there. But whatever. Eventually Grace stops being a stubborn mule for half a second and they go to Wyoming.

Anyway. Val and Grace have lots of issues. Sexy issues. As you have probably already figured out by now, they conceived Frankie during their wild bouts of emotionless sex some nine years ago. Then something trust shattering happened and here we are. Grace glares a lot, Val is vaguely awesome a lot, and then more explosions happen. Not that we haven't had time for more emotionless sex in the barn, because rest assured that happened, and it happened a lot.

Somewhere in all of this, we learn why we're here. I was happy about this, because when you're about two thirds through a book and you still have no idea what's going on, I will even take an info dump of Stephenie Meyer magnitudes to explain to me what the hell is happening. This is what is happening:

Once, there was a man. I guess he explored a lot, because he excavated some Egyptian tomb and found (waiiiit for iiiiiiit) a never ending fuel-less battery cell! It's like the everlasting gobstopper of batteries! Neglecting to inform Egypt about this discovery, this guy decides to take his discovery to America, where congress is in awe of the engine he has developed around this battery. Sensing their global domination is going to be threatened, the oil industry collectively panics, and Marvot, mobster/oil magnate, intends to singlehandedly stop this insanity by killing this guy's father. Weirdly, this works. Engine man goes to ground, and literally buries his engine in the Sahara.

All is lost! Except for the fact that the engine man has fashioned a way to find the engine: he breeds Arabian horses! Two of these horses were trained at the tender age of, like, one and a half, to find the engine. Only here is the kicker: they must remain together at all times, and they are sort of insane. They cannot be trained, they cannot be approached. One can hardly glance at them without being seriously harmed in some way. The only thing that sort of calmed them is Cosmo, the donkey, but Val, in his endless stupidity, stole the donkey about two months ago.

Where, oh where, will we find a horse whisperer? Oh, wait, Grace is a horse whisperer! Ahem, I mean, she just talks to horses until they do whatever it is she wants them to do. Right.

So then Frankie is kidnapped by Marvot, Grace walks into Morocco, sweet talks the horses, and then more explosions happen. Marvot dies, Grace walks out of there with the now tame horses. (Because finders keepers, okay? Sure, they belong to the estate/heirs of the dead engine guy, but GRACE IS BETTER THAN THEM. And possession is 9/10ths of the law, you guys. It's amusing because Grace and Val kind of explicitly state this to themselves afterward. No, really.)

Fresh from stealing some horses that can find an engine that will change history, and obviously now billionaires, they retire to Alabama with their prodigy daughter, whom I think I have successfully ignored for most of this review.


- People say shall, may and whom too much in this book. I appreciate correct grammar as much as the next person, but this was like reliving all of those elementary school reprimands all over again. (May I? vs. Can I? That was like every day.)

- Val insists that he and Grace get married because sex is obviously the most important thing in any relationship. Sure, they have absolutely no chemistry together and seem to not care about each other's feelings, but that's not important! All of those kids who are getting married at the courthouse? They're doing it because of the sex, Grace.

- The dialogue in this book drove me a little crazy, because people talk at each other instead of with each other. Then, all of a sudden, Val will start talking as if he's just heard Grace's thoughts and the "conversation" takes a totally weird turn from blah blah normal blah to sexy times based on a thought.

- Iris hates commas with a passion.

- Frankie jumps "barriers" with a palomino stallion that was gifted to her, because supposedly this makes her well-rounded.


So, this is where I stop. Next, I think I'll continue through these requests and work on Rider in the Dark. If anyone else wants to torture me, feel free to leave your requests.

3 comments:

Fear Street said...

I love how they manage to have sexy times even though some serious stuff is going down. Fools.

Monique said...

I've read this author before. Her sex scenes are hilarious!

coulrophobic agnostic said...

Jesus, I couldn't even read the entire recap before my brain glazed over. Jeeeeeezus.