by Karle Dickerson
I honestly think that some of these books are little rewards for the round table of authors on this series. They slave away at writing characters they basically didn't create in a story they didn't create, and try desperately to insert things they have created to keep them interested. Like Jennifer Chu's California characters, Mary Anderson's Crazy Backstory of Doom, and Karle Dickerson's Lyssa. And they don't get any love for these creations at all, which is kind of sad. But then you have, well, Lyssa.
Lyssa Hynde knows the Wyoming winters are cold, lonely, and dangerous. But she wouldn't give them up for anything. There's nothing she likes better than to gallop her three-day event horse, Blue, through knee-high fresh
powdersnow. It's snow, okay?
One day when she's out for her morning ride, Lyssa follows a trail of mysterious hoof prints that take her high into the mountains. Climbing a snowdrift, she and Blue set off an avalanche that builds in force as it heads straight for her ranch.
Will Lyssa make it home in time to warn her family and save the other animals? The avalanche is not a plot point, and no one needs saved. Move on already. Will she find the mystery horse that led her astray in the first place?
Here's the deal: it's January. For your reference, we were practically headed into May in the last book, when Parker went off to England and Christina had literally wedged herself into a corner to stare in fascination at her own fingers. We should be right on top of the Kentucky Derby at this point, but for whatever reason we have been hauled back four months in time to visit Frickin' Lyssa, who has not a) been accepted to train with USET yet, has not b) been to ROLEX yet, and c) has not met Tony yet. I think Tony was in one of those Parker books? Maybe I have a vague memory of this because he's introduced in this one. Whatever. The important thing to note: this makes no sense.
The cover...I have no feelings toward it. The cover artist really ramped up the Western outfit, but for all intents and purposes it fits the book. Lyssa does (sigh) ride Blue around a lot without a saddle, at least before she starts to take current events seriously.
So we begin with Lyssa. Frickin' Lyssa. She's bemoaning the price of supplements or something and basically has the same epiphany that Parker had in another book previously: she needs sponsors. Perhaps the feed store would sponsor her! But before she can feel that swift kick of disillusionment, she is distracted by a woman trying to buy a puppy. Naturally, this woman is suspect because she is not Lyssa and all animals in the world are at risk of being abused if they are not connected to the main character.
So Frickin' Lyssa adopts the puppy out from under the lady, who is peeved but gives up the dog. Lyssa, whose family is strapped for cash, immediately regrets this move, but hauls the puppy home and introduces it to her incredibly open minded family amidst chili and waxing poetical about the mountains and the fresh powder (ahem, snow. Just say snow already!).
Later on, Lyssa's friend Gabriela shows up to inform her that Mystic, the horse Lyssa found for her on one of those random trips teens take to California, is super lame and she's giving her up to Mrs. Peters, crazy animal lady down the road. Mystic will have a forever home and Gabriela is free to pursue boys. Everyone wins. Lyssa feels a deep sense of disdain and decides to ride Blue around in the powder for a while, coming across the school she doesn't go to (because she is "homeschooled.") There, a boy pops out of nowhere and insists that she leave. He is the security guard, you see. It is very important that Lyssa not trample school property.
Being a girl, Lyssa can't help but notice how pretty he is, which I would say violates her determination to judge Gabriela for liking boys and not Mystic, but naturally Blue isn't lame so whatevs. Like boys all you want, Lyssa.
Then there's a party that Gabriela drags Lyssa to so she can dump her by the punch bowl in favor of the new boyfriend, leaving Lyssa free to run into the boy security guard again. His name is Tony. They dance. I'm sure it was titillating, a Western version of the Samantha era's "haunting flamenco," if you will. But I digress.
Blah blah blah. Things happen. Lyssa insists on checking out the school again, and finds hoofprints leading into the mountains, where she assumes Tony has taken the horse to hide out, which is stupid because of the avalanche risk. But of course Frickin' Lyssa follows him up anyway, and just as it's getting a little too dangerous to be plowing around through horse-chest-deep high "powder", Blue flips out and starts an avalanche.
And then girl and horse outrace an avalanche.
So, hold on to your seats, you guys. It's going to be action packed from here on out.
Blue proves himself to be super amazing, runs all the way back to the ranch, and deposits a hysterical Lyssa on the ground. The avalanche missed the ranch entirely, detouring into a canyon somewhere, so everyone can be reassured that nothing awful will ever happen to these people ever. Her mom insists she stay home, but Lyssa can't just let Tony and the horse alone and is back out the next morning, with friend Mitch in tow. They find Tony, discover that he has Mystic of all horses, and listen to his story of woe (he is totally not a horse thief you guys...unless you take into account that he took someone's horse off their property without asking and has no intent of bringing it back. It's not stealing if you've got good intentions, right?)
He insists that Mrs. Peters is a fraud, and she sells her superfluous horses to the meat packers when things are getting tight. Lyssa is shocked, because no one has ever known Mrs. Peters to be anything but an animal hoarder, which is totally okay and couldn't possibly go wrong. She and Mitch are both suspicious of Tony's story, so they take Tony and Mystic back to Lyssa's ranch and Lyssa rumbles off in Mitch's truck to check out Mrs. Peters, only to discover that Mrs. Peters is the lady that wanted the puppy from the first chapter.
Le shock! Mrs. Peters only wanted the puppy because it's a purebred with papers and could probably get money for it...hmmmm, yeah. Totally reasonable. And then the meat packers helpfully show up, and Lyssa conveniently discovers that one of the horses with Mrs. Peters was on a stolen horse flier at the feed store. So Lyssa hides a bridle in her Thinsulate, gets it on the stolen horse, and tears out of there bareback as Mrs. Peters (I keep envisioning an old lady, for some reason) jumps in Mitch's truck and chases after them.
Frickin' Lyssa, because she's amazing, loses Mrs. Peters and heads straight for the police station. So then the cops swarm everywhere, take in Tony, Mystic, Mrs. Peters and leave Lyssa wondering why life is horrible. Now Tony will be arrested for stealing a horse and deported to Arizona, where everyone knows jerks come from. It's accepted in Lyssa World as fact. But, of course, that doesn't happen. Don't worry you guys, Tony rides back on Mystic and says he bought her for cheap and he'll fix her feet because not only is he a 19-year-old horse thief with a heart of gold, he is also a budding eventer and an awesome blacksmith who knows "techniques." Also, he's going to stay in Wyoming or Montana or whatever and train with Lyssa and work for her dad and work for his relatives in Billings because he has them. So now Lyssa can blissfully fawn all over his spotty teenage neck scruff all she likes.
Hooray. USET invites for everyone!