Mar 31, 2013

Melanie's Double Jinx is actually more like double vision -- just look at those two sexy men on the cover! Thoroughbred #69: Melanie's Double Jinx.

Melanie's Double Jinx
Thoroughbred #69
By Mary Newhall
January 2005

Can Jinx beat a curse?

With Christina sidelined by a broken ankle, Melanie is doing a lot of riding for Whitebrook, but none of it is quite to her satisfaction. There are just too many distractions. Jazz is more distant than ever after nearly selling Image to Brad Townsend. Kevin, who has been helping Melanie train Hi Jinx, has been stirring up old romantic feelings in Melanie. And even though Hi Jinx's training has been going pretty well, Melanie is worried about his prospects for the future. No matter what she does—or how she looks at it—Hi Jinx seems to be … well… jinxed.

The Summary:

Yeah, um, no. Let's deconstruct this and assign point values for accuracy:
  • With Christina sidelined by a broken ankle (true +1)
  • Melanie is doing a lot of riding for Whitebrook (false -1)
  • Jazz is more distant than ever after nearly selling Image to Brad Townsend (true, but he was already pretty distant, so we'll call it 0)
  • Kevin, who has been helping Melanie train Hi Jinx, has been stirring up old romantic feelings in Melanie (false. WTF? There is, like, one sentence when he asks, "Do you remember when we broke up?" -1)
  • And even though Hi Jinx's training has been going pretty well (false -1)
  • Melanie is worried about his prospects for the future (true, but that hardly counts, especially because we already disproved the "training has been going pretty well" part.  Net score:  0)
So our grand total is -2. I think that speaks for itself.

The Cover:

OH WOW. I'm pretty sure words cannot do this cover justice, but I will certainly try, because this one is too amazing to go unreviewed forever. So, first we have Melanie, who has apparently been transported to a summer camp out west or something. (Yes, I know there's no saddle horn on Jinx's saddle, but the whole feel of the cover is very Colorado somehow.) She is wearing a fetching lavender T-shirt with the longest short sleeves I've ever seen, and her entire ensemble looks more like Christina than Melanie (not to mention her reddish-brown/auburn/brown/strawberry blonde hair, also very Christina-ish), but other than that, I'll give her a pass.

The leading men … hoo boy. We have (I'm assuming) Jazz on the left, in green, and Kevin on the right, in red. But honestly, these boys are twins. The one on the right has slightly more reddish hair and looks slightly more goofy, which is why I'm assuming he's Kevin. Neither one of them looks a bit like a rock star or has a ponytail, as Jazz does. And freakily, they are dressed alike. The green one (presumably-Jazz) is wearing a T-shirt, the red one (supposedly-Kevin) is wearing a polo shirt. Other than that, they're both wearing jeans, docksiders, and watches with brown leather wristbands on their left wrists. So I don’t know, maybe they've just come from some sort of twins lookalike contest and are ready to unleash their combined manliness on Melanie? Your guess is as good as mine. For what it's worth, the horse doesn't look very impressed either.

The Plot:

It's November, shortly after #68. Melanie has moved Jinx to Tall Oaks, and Kevin is helping her train him. They decide he's ready to race. Okay, so to be perfectly honest, I have been so caught up in the exciting time-travel experience that was Samantha's unofficial diaries, I didn’t actually reread Breaking the Fall because Claire already did that for you. (We can ignore Kaitlin's Wild Ride since it's all about Kaitlin's autumn of luuuuurve and has no bearing on The Star Show.) So if you have more patience than me, have at it.

The main plotline of this book is that Jinx is an asshole, Melanie is worried that Jazz will sell him, and Melanie and Jazz have grown apart. Or apparently they broke up or something already and I missed that too. Kevin and Melanie take Jinx to Florida to run in the What a Pleasure stakes. Melanie rides a horse for Ghyllian Hollis and brings her in third. Jazz is in Florida recording an album because there are no recording studios in New York and pops onto the page long enough to have a fight with Melanie: he thinks she's not paying any attention to him and that every time she ignores him, God kills a kitten. He also says that the horses are an investment and "if they aren't bringing in a return, you've got a problem." Melanie thinks how much he's like Brad, which is true, but it's also hard to argue with. Sorry, Mel, you may be able to pay the bills by running around in the pages of a book and wearing ugly jeans, but the rest of us have actual bills to pay.

So after that little nugget, Jazz drops a second bombshell: He's going to sell Image. Melanie decides that Jinx better start earning his keep and win some purses so she can buy both horses from Jazz. Unfortunately, she screws it all up during his very next work, when Jinx gets away from her. They come in third in the What a Pleasure stakes, and she has a less-than-stellar ride on Gratis as well. Kevin yells at her for her sucky concentration, and they go back to Kentucky. Ashleigh tells Melanie that Jazz asked if they wanted to buy Image, but they can't pony up the cash right now. Kevin feels bad and apologizes. He says that Melanie can get through to Jinx and he'll prove it to her.

So then we're treated to a rehash of the Champion Theory of Horse Training from Champion's Spirit. Remember that one, guys? It was all Cindy's fault because she was sad about Storm and making Champion behave badly? While I would love to blame everything on Cindy, let's face it, Champion was also an asshole sometimes. (Of course, I suspect that he was also an asshole the way entitled, bratty little kids are assholes and you can usually blame that on their parents, so maybe we're onto something here.) Anyway, Melanie decides that the secret is to relax and "think of an easy gallop on the beach rather than a tough race on a crowded track." And because this is Thoroughbred, it works out wonderfully and Melanie decides she's going to listen to Kevin from now on. Barf.

Jazz drops by to tell Melanie he's sold Image, but she doesn't want to hear it. Christina makes a Very Special Guest Appearance to spill the beans on that one: Ben bought Image, and she'll be going back to Tall Oaks. (This part is kind of cute because as Christina says, "She's going home to where she was bred.") Jazz admits that he didn’t really know what he was getting into when he invested in the horses, and that "we had such a good time when it was all going right," until they hit financial problems. "Things go wrong," Melanie says, "it's part of life." It's a pretty fair assessment of the situation, and if I were feeling charitable, I might even say that it's a pretty good life lesson as well. Beginnings are easy, it's continuity that's hard. (Thank you, Rita Mae Brown.)

Jazz has more good news: Ben is paying him so much money that Melanie can keep racing Jinx and buy him. I guess Ben is like a combination charity/bank here. Oh well, what's the use of being rich if you can't buy presents for annoying teenage jockeys? I have to say, though, the purchase of Image puts Cindy's Arabic saddle and bridle to shame.

Allie (henceforth Mary Sue) starts bonding with Jinx, and he's a big ball of fluffy kitten happy rainbow fur with her. It's Christmas, and Melanie thinks up the perfect gift for Sue: a plane ticket to Florida to see Jinx race. How thoughtful, Melanie. So your gift is to bring Susie with you … so she can work and take care of Jinx … thus giving you the money to buy Jinx. Very generous. We are also treated to a "poor little impoverished orphan" scene in which Mary Sue gets "new clothes, makeup kits (WTF? No Thoroughbred heroine is ever allowed to want makeup), horse supplies," and a journal. Oh God, if the series had gone on longer, we would have been treated to some special editions featuring the journals of Mary Sue Allie Allison Gordon Avery al-Rihani. Thank goodness they pulled the plug when they did.

Oh right, and then of course Melanie runs Jinx in the Spectacular Bid (get it?) and Jazz comes to congratulate her and she lets fricking Mary Sue into the winner's circle with her. Ugh. I mean, oh, how sweet. Not.

And that's it. Melanie and Jazz are finally officially broken up and I guess the idea was to get Melanie and Kevin back together, but the series ended just a few books later and anyway I was so exhausted by this point that I truly didn’t care that Kevin was even working with the horses again, much less who he was dating. So, for those of you who were really looking forward to a lengthy Twilight-style love triangle between Melanie and Kevin and Jazz, sorry to disappoint, but on the plus side, it means you don't have to slog through this drivel.

Points of Interest:
  • It's Thoroughbred, starring the vapor lights again! They are the very first thing mentioned in the book. No joke. Right after the word "The."
  • It seems that both Brad and Christina have honored their deal from The Price of Fame—Melanie thinks that Brad just backed out of the deal to buy/breed Image, and she and Kevin wonder why.
  • Our famous horsie sighting comes up early, when Kevin encourages Melanie to point Jinx toward the Derby. Melanie is worried about the curse that says any horse who wins the Breeder's Cup Juvenile won't win the Derby. Kevin rebuts by mentioning Spectacular Bid. Later Jinx runs in the Spectacular Bid stakes.
  • Mary Sue starts high school in this book, because someone in TB-land finally has some sense: "The school wouldn't allow it [homeschooling] for more than a few weeks," Melanie said. "Cindy said they require parents to meet certain education requirements themselves, and she doesn't even have her associate's degree. Besides that, she and Ben both agreed that Allie needs to be around more people her own age."
  • Melanie rides a Whitebrook horse named Determined in this book. I sort of like that because it was one of the names that AU-Rebecca proposed for AU-Jazz in Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle.
  • Apparently Terry, the groom from Townsend Acres, has defected to Celtic Meadows. His last name has changed from Bush to Conley. Perhaps he's joined the witness protection program. (Or maybe he's not supposed to be the same Terry and I just missed that.)
  • On a date with Jazz, Melanie wears "green jeans, a green-and-purple shirt that echoed the Tall Oaks colors, and sneakers." Dear God, she really is channeling Christina. Stop the madness!

Next up: One more book of this to go. I'll take bets on whether I'm able to get through an entire book of Mary Sue or not.

Mar 24, 2013

Top o' the morning to you! Where's me second annoying Samantha diary? Thoroughbred #66: Samantha's Irish Luck

Samantha's Irish Luck
Thoroughbred #66
By Mary Newhall
August 2004

Samantha is in love and has finally found the perfect horse. But is her luck about to run out?

Samantha and Tor's month-long honeymoon in Ireland turns into a much longer stay when Samantha meets Finn, a massive sporthorse that is a descendant of Red Rum, steeplechasing's greatest horse. Samantha is enjoying such success with Finn that she and Tor settle into the idea that they'll be in Ireland for the rest of their lives.

Then Tor gets an urgent call to return home to Kentucky. With the Grand National just weeks away, Tor urges Samantha to stay in Ireland, but she still finds herself torn between her husband and her beloved horse. If only she didn't have such a nagging feeling about leaving Finn behind. She's sure something horrible is about to happen.

The Summary:
This is relatively accurate, and 100% reflective of the stupidity of Samantha's attitude in these two books. Who knew that getting married makes you act like a ten-year-old again?

The Cover:
Here we've got another brunette Samantha and another a veiny horse. Oh god, and another beribboned riding helmet! They are apparently racing in a steeplechase with the smallest field (read: nonexistent) in the history of steeplechasing. You can tell they're in Ireland because everything is green. And pink. Apparently it's a rule that you can't have a Thoroughbred cover without pink these days.

The Plot:
Samantha and Tor are standing in the nursery that Ashleigh et. al. cleaned out in the last book, wondering if it'll be big enough. I sure hope so, after you subjected your friends to a day of your tedious reminiscing. The gleesome threesome come back, this time to paint the room. Samantha goes down to the barn and runs into Kaitlin, who makes the mistake of asking why Samantha and Tor moved back from Ireland and how they got Finn McCoul the Wonder Horse (not to be confused with a Wonderpony). Samantha settles down for a long winter's nap, or at least a 136-page story.

So Samantha and Tor go on a month-long honeymoon at an equestrian bed-and-breakfast in Ireland, which is run by Jimmy and Hannah Hollis and their daughter, Ghyllian, whom you may remember from fine literary works such as The Price of Fame and Star's Inspiration. Apparently this is the real Celtic Meadows (which may explain why I was confused every time Ghyllian showed up to run her horses in Kentucky). They meet a beautiful weanling called Finn McCoul, a son of Red Rum, who "won the Grand National Steeplechase three times and placed second twice." Great. At least we got that over with. They go on a bunch of trail rides and buy sweaters and eat a lot and Samantha falls in love with Finn.

Back in Kentucky, Samantha is all mopey about missing Ireland. Going to a diner makes her think about Hannah's beef stew. For Christmas, she buys a "white wool fisherman's sweater for Tor and a coffee cup with a shamrock design on it for Tor's father." Okay, seriously, Sammy? You bought him a mug when you could go to Goodwill and get ten of them for a dollar? Next you're probably going to buy Cindy a pair of stonewashed jeans with shamrocks on them.

Then Jimmy Hollis randomly calls from Ireland to say that he wants to concentrate on flat-racing at Celtic Meadows, and do Samantha and Tor want to come over and handle the eventing side? Shocker! I can't believe it took 58 pages to get to that. So, surprising no one, Samantha and Tor move to Ireland (after dumping Whisperwood on Mr. Nelson and Shining on Mandy). Samantha decides she is the luckiest person in the world. I think she also said that in Samantha's Journey and Bridal Dreams. Let's hope it goes better this time, Sammy.

Samantha trains Finn for eventing and says he's "the easiest horse I've ever trained." Oh god, it's Storm's Ransom reincarnated! Someone better call Mulder and Scully! He must really be a Wonder Horse, because a mere one paragraph later, he is four years old and they are competing in the Badminton Horse Trials in England. Finn does well in dressage, but stumbles and bows a tendon during cross-country. The vet diagnoses him with pedal osteitis and says he doesn't know if he'll ever jump again. This makes perfect sense because it's "the same disease Red Rum had, and he still raced and won." I guess we're not done with the famous horsie references after all. A second vet also suggests that they stop racing him, but Samantha says he "love[s] to race too much to give up now." I can't decide if this is supposed to be one of those "unlikely undersized weakling foal who grew up to take blue ribbons at the National Horse Show" stories or just really, really irresponsible. I mean, because it's Thoroughbred, I know he's not going to die (unless he's Storm, or Wonder, or Black Night, or Midnight Wanderer, or … maybe I should stop). But in real life, I don't think people say, "Oh yeah! You love to race so much that we should just ignore that fractured cannon bone and turn you out on the track!"

Samantha walks Finn on the beach and exercises him in the water. The vet says he's doing great. I guess Ghyllian and Samantha have been talking to Leslie D'Andrea. Jimmy wants to prep him for a steeplechase. The vet says, "I don't care much for steeplechases—I think they're hard on the horses. But if you're going to race him, now's the time." WTF is wrong with these people?

Samantha jockeys Finn in a steeplechase at Punchestown and wins. They point him to the Grand National, until Ian calls to say that Tor's dad is sick and Tor needs to come home. Samantha decides to go with him, thinking it'll just be a short visit. At the hospital they meet his fiancée, Helen, a nurse, who tells them that it's more serious than they thought: he has cancer. Tor's dad tells them that they need to move to Arizona for the "warm, dry climate." Gee, I didn't know he also had the galloping cough. Tor and Samantha decide to stay in Kentucky and take over Whisperwood. (At this point we smack into Racing Parker, in which Christina is twelve, riding Sterling, and wants to switch to taking lessons with Sammy, because she is a "world-class three-day-event rider.")

They watch the Grand National on TV, and Finn breaks down while jumping over the last fence. Jimmy calls from Ireland to say he's torn a tendon and won't race again. This gives Samantha a chance to mope again (she should take lessons from Christina), only instead of missing Ireland, she misses Finn.

Tor asks her to accompany him on a surprise trip to the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. Hey, I know where that is. I drive by there every time I go home to visit my parents. Tor tells Samantha they're there to look at a stallion he's thinking of buying for their breeding operation, who turns out to be, of course, Finn. I'm sure this is all very romantic, Tor, but number one, I would be really annoyed if my husband agreed to buy a horse without asking me, and number two, if Finn is just like Red Rum and all that, are you sure you want to pass on those weak pedal bones to another generation? I mean, let's not forget here that in TB-land, every colt is just like his father and every filly is just like her mother. It's a good thing Red Rum didn't have a superdrive. Tor tells Samantha that Finn will be in quarantine for a while and then will be shipped to Kentucky. So basically, you guys took an exciting flight to New York just so you could look at a horse's nose. Also a prudent financial choice, Tor. Samantha waxes eloquent about how lucky she is again.

We come back to the present, where Samantha is shocked to find that several hours have passed. Kaitlin is still patiently listening (I picture her looking like Marius in this hilarious scene from the Les MisĂ©rables movie) and thinking, "Oh god, why did I agree to get into this? Next she's going to start telling me how she met my mother." Cindy, Ashleigh, and Christina show off the freshly painted nursery, and Samantha and Tor tell them that—surprise!—they're expecting twins. I bet NO ONE saw that coming after all the hints people dropped in previous books.

Points of Interest:
  • Samantha says, "I hope we get at least a few days of sun while we're here." Haha, nice try, Sammy. Maybe if you stay in Ireland for six years, you'll get summer on one or two days.
  • We find out that Caroline is living out of the country with her husband, Mr. Presumably-Justin. Apparently this is the way to ditch any Griffens we don't like; Rory went overseas, too, after Ashleigh's Diary. (When we don't like Townsends, we just don't mention them, and I guess when we don't like the Grahams/Reeses, we just kill them off without ever explaining exactly how Christina is related to Melanie.)
  • Cindy is conveniently not home for Christmas because she's in New York. I guess that means this is supposed to be set around the time as Cindy's Bold Start, which I don't think is right—if Sammy is 23, just turning 24, then Cindy should still be 17 and in high school, and don't forget, you have to cram Cindy's Desert Adventure in there somewhere (much as I would like to forget it). Oh well. The less I have to deal with Cindy, the better.
  • Dress alert! Sammy wears an emerald necklace and a gold taffeta gown with a halter top and a full skirt. It sounds kind of prom-like, but no worse than anything Ashleigh, Christina, and/or Cindy have worn to the prom. Oh, and I should mention she wears this to a party or something. Not to an actual steeplechase, though I wouldn't put it past her.
  • Samantha also wears an emerald-and-sapphire bracelet, which Ian apparently gave her on her wedding day. If you believe Samantha's Journey, they kept nothing of Suzanne's except her green dress and security blankie riding boots, but previous Joanna-authored books make reference to some of her other possessions, so it makes sense that they would have some keepsakes. I think it's also likely that Suzanne's parents still had some of her family mementos.

Next up: #67: Breaking the Fall and #68: Kaitlin's Wild Ride have already been reviewed by Claire. Next up from me: Melanie's Double Jinx, notable for the amazing cover art! You'll be wowed! Stay tuned!