Heart of Fire

Heart of Fire

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by Victoria Holmes

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A long-lost brother returns . . .

Maddie Harman hasn't seen her brother in years, not since he went off to war and she moved to Sefton Park with their grandparents. So when Theo suddenly returns, Maddie couldn't be happier to have her family back together.

Theo also brings a guest - a stunning mare he's brought back from Zanzibar. Maddie isn't much… See more details below

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A long-lost brother returns . . .

Maddie Harman hasn't seen her brother in years, not since he went off to war and she moved to Sefton Park with their grandparents. So when Theo suddenly returns, Maddie couldn't be happier to have her family back together.

Theo also brings a guest - a stunning mare he's brought back from Zanzibar. Maddie isn't much of a rider, but when Theo lets her name the horse, she falls in love with Firebird. She even dares to go for a ride - and discovers that Firebird is a champion jumper. The horse is fitting in perfectly at the estate.
But Theo doesn't seem so comfortable. And then, on a dark and stormy night, another young man drives up to Sefton Park. He comes inside and introduces himself . . . as Theo Harman. The family is shocked. Who is the real Theo? And Maddie has another worry - if the first Theo is an imposter, what will happen to her beloved Firebird?

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
It is unusual for the main character of a "horse story" to dislike horses, but this one does. At least, she does initially. Fifteen-year-old Maddie wishes she were back in the London home she and her sister, Louisa, left four years earlier. Ever since their parents died four years ago, the pair have been living on their grandparents' estate. For Maddie, one of the demands of the quiet country life is that she learn to ride horses. Every bump and bruise along the way angers the girl�at least, until her long-absent older brother Theo arrives with a gorgeous African horse. Since fighting in the Great War, Theo has been mining diamonds in South Africa. Now, having been injured in a terrible cave-in that took the life of his best friend, Theo has returned home. But how changed he is! Maddie does not remember much of the young man who left when she was just eight years old, but even to her, Theo seems quite changed by his experiences. The two have little to talk about�at least, until they discover that Theo's horse, who Maddie names Firebird, is an incredible jumper. Victoria Holmes spins an engaging tale of love, loss, and family. Her plot twists are satisfying, and her heroine grows in character and spirit through the course of this intriguing novel. 2006, HarperCollins, and Ages 10 to 14.
—Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-After the death of their parents, Maddie, 15, and her older sister go to live with their grandparents in the country. Maddie would rather be in London and is not thrilled that her family expects horseback riding to replace her city life. Unexpectedly, her older brother returns from Namibia, where he has been living since fighting in the Great War. He has brought with him a beautiful horse, and Maddie becomes a devoted rider. Firebird proves to be a talented jumper, and the siblings decide that they will train her for the King George V Gold Cup. Their plans are upset, though, when the family discovers what Maddie has known for some time: Theo is an imposter who assumed her brother's identity after he was presumed dead in an accident. Despite numerous obstacles, there is little doubt as to how this story will end. Horse lovers might find the training schedules interesting, but those who are looking for a really good animal story may find the details less involving. Though the story line has some enjoyable twists and turns, it is hard to believe that no one but Maddie notices that "Theo" is a fake. The characters are not memorable, and the story's pacing will not have readers stampeding to the shelves.-Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Library Bound Edition
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Heart of Fire

By Victoria Holmes

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006

Victoria Holmes

All right reserved.

ISBN: 006052037X

Chapter One

Berkshire, England 1923

The bay gelding's ears twitched back and forth as he cantered toward the jump, and Maddie felt his stride falter. It's not too high, it's not too high, she told herself--and it really wasn't, it was only a wooden pole laid across two straw bales. If Maddie had stood beside it, the rail would have barely come up to her knees.

Starling propped on his forelegs, throwing up his head and making the reins flap against his neck. Just when Maddie was convinced he was going to slither to a stop, he took a huge leap over the rail. Maddie lurched backward, the top pommel jabbing painfully into the back of her right knee, and only managed to save herself from toppling off altogether by grabbing a handful of mane.

Starling landed with a thud, stumbling as Maddie caught up with him a few moments too late. Her right leg had slid so far up the gelding's shoulder that her boot was tangled in his mane, and her bowler hat had slipped over one eye so that she couldn't see anything except a narrow strip of grass under Starling's front hooves.

"That was useless!" she exclaimed, hauling herself straight as Starling jogged to a standstill and took advantage of his trailing reins to snatch a mouthful of grass. "I just can't do it!"

"How many times do I 'ave to tell you, Miss Maddie? You need to fold to the right." Aslight, wiry-limbed figure was limping across the paddock toward her, his face creased with a frown. Toby Chalk, the head groom at Sefton Park, was clearly as frustrated by Maddie's lack of riding talent as she was herself.

"Fold to the right?" Maddie echoed crossly. "I'm not a piece of paper, Toby! How can I fold to the right?" She yanked off the brown leather gloves and rubbed at the angry red marks around her wrists. No matter how many times she told her grandmother that she didn't have hands the size of a doll's, Lady Ella insisted that Maddie wore them whenever she rode.

Toby took hold of Starling's bridle and lifted the gelding's head. "Try again, Miss Maddie," he said. "This time, remember to kick 'im on when you come into the jump. Just because you don't 'ave a leg on his right-hand side, doesn't mean you can't give 'im a tap with the whip."

Maddie stared mutinously at the groom, drawing herself up to her full height. On the ground, she was barely an inch over five feet tall, but sitting on Starling, even though the gelding was less than fourteen hands, she could look down at the top of Toby's flat tweed cap. "I don't wish to ride any more today," she told him. "Please can we go in now?"

She pressed her knuckles against Starling's mane, letting the warmth of his neck comfort her. Poor old Starling; it wasn't his fault she couldn't get the hang of jumping. Behind them, the clock in the stable yard chimed eleven, and Maddie shut her eyes, letting herself imagine what she would be doing if she was back in London, in her parents' Kensington townhouse. On a gray, rainy day like this, her mother would have ordered the fire to be lit in the sitting room, and morning tea would be served in warm cups, with toast and bramble jam. The postman would have brought yet another square of thick, creamy paper (Maddie's favorites were the ones that had scalloped edges), inviting the Harmans to a musical evening or a birthday party or a poetry reading, and Mrs. Harman would be frowning as she tried to remember if they were free on that date.

There would be rapid footsteps in the hallway and the door would swing open to reveal a young man with a narrow, high-cheekboned face and gray eyes. Sitting on Starling in the windswept field, Maddie felt her cold cheeks stretch in a smile. Theo! She missed her brother so much.

Was it a real memory? Maddie wasn't sure. It was four years since she had lived in Kensington with her parents; the sitting room, the invitations, the fire, the people--most of all, the people--everything was gone now.

Her eyes flew open and her fingers clenched around the reins, making Starling sidestep restlessly. She reached down to soothe the pony while inside she recoiled with the familiar stab of grief. All the days, weeks, months she had spent at her grandparents' home hadn't made the pain any less sharp. Maddie was fifteen now, and sometimes she was afraid she would forget everything that had happened before she came to live on her grandfather's country estate. There was no point in wishing for her old life in London; her parents were dead, and she hadn't seen Theo since he left to fight in the Great War seven years ago, when Maddie was eight years old.

Invalided out of the army after a mustard gas attack, Theo had gone to seek his fortune in Namibia, swapping the trenches in France for an African diamond mine. He hadn't been home since, not even for their parents' funeral. Maddie wondered if he even remembered he had a family back in England. Had he stayed away because their mother and father had been so upset by his decision to fight in the war? Their father had never mentioned Theo's name after that day, and Maddie remembered thinking that he was behaving as if her brother had died.

And now Father and Mother were dead, from the influenza epidemic in 1919 that had killed more people in Europe than the war itself. Theo was still alive, he had always been alive somewhere, and they had let him just disappear. It wasn't fair, and it was all the fault of the stupid war!

Maddie gathered up the reins; now that the lesson was over, it didn't matter if she held them like a bunch of radishes. She glanced down to see Toby looking up at her with a strange expression in his pale blue eyes, and she wondered why he hadn't gone over to open the gate.


Excerpted from Heart of Fire
by Victoria Holmes
Copyright © 2006 by Victoria Holmes.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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