By Mary Newhall
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.
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)
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.
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.