Black-Eyed Susan Day
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This first novel by horsewoman Sondra Rice Newman takes you on a rollercoaster ride from obscurity to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. Her knowledge of horses and the racing world are apparent with only a few minor errors that most readers wouldn't even notice. It is an enjoyable, if somewhat predictable, tale that will keep the reader interested throughout.
Starting out in New York, advertising executive Leigh Meredith is dumped by her fiance with no warning on Christmas eve. She decides to escape her high pressure job and flees to the countryside in Virginia where she takes a job with the local newspaper to make ends meet. There she meets riding instructor and boarding stable owner Bibs who talks her into buying a horse that was abandoned by his owner, leaving unpaid bills. The horse, a gray thoroughbred gelding named Silver Dreams, is recovering from an eye infection which required that his right eye be removed. Leigh falls in love with the horse and nurses him back to health. Once recovered, she starts riding him and discovers he is very fast and decides to see if he could possibly have a racing career despite being 5 years old.
She hooks up with down on his luck trainer Whit Riley and together they start preparing Silver Dreams for the track. Because of his age, they start him out at a hunt meet in Virginia and he wins easily. Knowing they have something special on their hands, they start on a path that eventually leads them to the Breeders' Cup Turf, racing against the best turf horses in the world. There are bumps along the way like a bad bout of colic and a romance between Leigh and Whit, but things work out for them in the end.
For those who worry that this might be a romance novel, it is far from that. The romance is only a small side plot with the majority of the action taking place in the barn or on the track. The usual cast of characters you would expect in the racing world such as Arab sheikhs and millionaires is there along with the million dollar horses, the media frenzy at the Breeders' Cup, and the thrill of the races. I found it a quite enjoyable book with characters you cared about and a story you could almost believe set in a world I am very familiar with. One race was even set at my home track.
Anyone who enjoys racing fiction or has dreamed of finding that big horse will enjoy this book. Rather than a mystery as is usual, this is a drama. While you can guess the outcome early, you still enjoy the ride that gets you there and regret when the book is finished.
Silver Dreams has a list price of $24.95 and is available for $16.47 at Amazon.com.
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