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The Highest Stakes
     

The Highest Stakes

4.2 19
by Emery Lee
 

WHAT WOULD YOU WAGER FOR LOVE?

In the high stakes gentleman's world of 18th century horseracing, when the blood of the "desert kings" ruled the English turf, a hero returns from war to claim the girl he has loved since he first spied her riding hell-for-leather over the Doncaster heath. Determined to have her at any cost, he will risk

Overview

WHAT WOULD YOU WAGER FOR LOVE?

In the high stakes gentleman's world of 18th century horseracing, when the blood of the "desert kings" ruled the English turf, a hero returns from war to claim the girl he has loved since he first spied her riding hell-for-leather over the Doncaster heath. Determined to have her at any cost, he will risk everything.

A story of star-crossed lovers and horseracing, THE HIGHEST STAKES transports the reader to 18th century England, an era infamous for corruption, arranged marriages, and high stakes gambling; when racing and breeding became the obsession of the uppermost elite, and a match race might replace a duel in settling a point of honor.

Through the fictional love story of Robert Devington and Charlottte Wallace, a tale of drama, danger, thwarted love, and retribution unfurls...

Editorial Reviews

The Historical Novel Review Blog
A rich and rewarding read.
— Cori Van Housen
Books Like Breathing
I would suggest this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in horse racing and a love of romances with star-crossed lovers.
— Grace Loiacono
Confessions of a Muse in the Fog
Emery Lee has given the reader a highly detailed and researched plot... Unexpected twists kept you guessing until the very last page.
— Svea Love
BookLoons.com
Love does conquer all in this story, but while we anxiously read to find out how, we are treated to a rich portion of history in this well-researched and thoroughly likable book.
— Barbara Lingens
Medieval Bookworm
A very enjoyable work of historical fiction, providing a compelling story against the backdrop of thoroughbred horse racing. Definitely recommended.
— Meghan Burton
Kittling
I was fascinated whenever Lee told of English racing and English foundation bloodlines.
History Undressed
I truly rejoice when the author grabs the essence of the time and setting and paints it onto the pages of their books. Lee is definitely an author to watch!
— Eliza Knight
I Heart Book Gossip
Enriching and heartwarming... If you love horses, historical romance, and a dash of witty characters, then this book is for you.
— Cindy
Celtic Lady's Reviews
Romance and history at it's best.
— Kathleen
Deb's Book Bag
Emery Lee's debut novel has succeeded in producing the kind of story that will make readers take notice and look forward to seeing what she writes next
— Debbie
Mrs. Q Book Addict
A riveting, unpredictable, historical read.
Rundpinne
Lee writes beautifully and passionately... the plot moves at a rapid clip with extraordinary twists and turns, leaving the reader wanting to know more.
— Jennifer Higgins
Readin' and Dreamin
A vastly researched novel about horse racing and love... An exquisitely drawn out plot.
— Christy
The Racing Journal
A tale of abiding, romantic love, the novel is also an extremely well-researched book that stands among the distinguished rakes of historical novels.
— Karen Svea Johnson
Luxury Reading
This novel has everything it needs to be considered epic — love, greed, hatred, and history.
— Vera
The Calico Critic
A grand tale with many venues and enriching characters.
— Laura Hartness
Romance Reviews Today
Brava to Ms. Lee on a brilliant first novel. Well rounded characters, excellent research, realistic dialogue, and a unique plot.
— Jani Brooks
Thoughts in Progress
Emery Lee takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns, of highs and lows, and love and betrayal... a blue-blood winner.
— Mason Canyon
Starting Fresh
Lovers of historical fiction will find The Highest Stakes to be an engrossing and satisfying read
— Gaby Lupus
Horse Book Reviews
A lively page-turner!... The horse and racing scenes are described excellently!
— Sharon Miner
My Book Addiction and More
If you enjoy history,intrique, romance, some suspense you will definitely enjoy this one. This is an author to be watching for.
— April Renn
Musings of a Bibliophile
A lively read... Undying love, deceit, greed and retribution fuel Emery Lee's debut novel.
— Brie
Reader's Respite
A horse racing fanatic's dream come true and a darned good introduction to world of the majestic thoroughbred.
— Michele
Martha's Bookshelf
A wonderfully engaging and rich debut novel. The history of thoroughbred horse racing is woven into a star-crossed romance with a truly authentic feel.
— Martha
Historical Novel Reviews
Emery Lee knows horses... an impressive debut.
From the Publisher
"A rich and rewarding read." - The Historical Novel Review Blog

"I would suggest this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in horse racing and a love of romances with star-crossed lovers. " - Books Like Breathing

"Emery Lee has given the reader a highly detailed and researched plot... Unexpected twists kept you guessing until the very last page." - Confessions of a Muse in the Fog

"Love does conquer all in this story, but while we anxiously read to find out how, we are treated to a rich portion of history in this well-researched and thoroughly likable book." - BookLoons.com

"A very enjoyable work of historical fiction, providing a compelling story against the backdrop of thoroughbred horse racing. Definitely recommended. " - Medieval Bookworm

" I was fascinated whenever Lee told of English racing and English foundation bloodlines." - Kittling

"I truly rejoice when the author grabs the essence of the time and setting and paints it onto the pages of their books. Lee is definitely an author to watch!" - History Undressed

"Enriching and heartwarming... If you love horses, historical romance, and a dash of witty characters, then this book is for you." - I Heart Book Gossip

"Romance and history at it's best. " - Celtic Lady's Reviews

"Emery Lee's debut novel has succeeded in producing the kind of story that will make readers take notice and look forward to seeing what she writes next" - Deb's Book Bag

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402236426
Publisher:
Sourcebooks
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Pages:
560
Product dimensions:
5.44(w) x 8.02(h) x 1.23(d)

Read an Excerpt

Robert Devington was growing more anxious by the moment. Once more he scanned the crowded and bustling paddocks. The call had already sounded for the first race in which Charles Wallace was to ride the gray mare, White Rose. The filly was entered in this particular race, a one-hundred-guinea challenge for maiden five-year-olds, young horses that had yet to win a race. It was a single four-and-a-half-mile heat, ten-stone weight, and about to start with her rider yet nowhere in sight. With barely a quarter hour remaining to present the horse and weigh in, Robert was in an agitated quandary. Audibly cursing, he pulled the blankets from the mare's back, just to put them back on again. He considered the only alternatives before him: to deceive the racing judges by presenting the horse in Charles's stead and committing an act of fraud; or do nothing and risk both the forfeiture of Sir Garfield's entry fee-no paltry sum by any standard-as well as this fine young mare's best chance to win a race, a circumstance that would do nothing to improve his standing with his beloved's uncle. His future with Charlotte was nearly a hopeless cause to begin with. He could scarce afford to fall afoul of her guardian's temper. Robert searched the milling crowd for the last time, desperately seeking a glimpse of Charles Wallace. Still none, blast it all! His last hope now dashed, he cursed with greater vehemence and led the horse out of her paddock to commit an act of fraud for the sake of love.

The Lichfield races, held annually in September, transformed the Whittington Heath, a three-hundred-acre sheep pasture, into the premiere event for all of Staffordshire. This hybrid of a horse race, garden party, and county fair attracted all classes of people from as far away as Derbyshire, the county's closest equine rival, but this year it drew an extraordinary number of persons of consequence. Lords and gentlemen had arrived from the North of England, Wales, and even the Scottish highlands, but as unusual as this was, never since its inception had this innocuous little village ever attracted a foreign dignitary. By far, the most distinguished patron of the races this year was the elegant and illustrious Grand Ecuyer de France, comte d'Armagnac, Master of the Horse in the court of King Louis XV. Rumored to have travelled all the way from Versailles to procure a number of English running-bloods for the Royal stud, Monsieur Le Grand's visit to Baron John Leveson-Gower had propitiously coincided with the Lichfield races, over which Lord Gower would preside. With the final preparations for the race in progress, Lord Gower and his eminent guest promenaded the grounds, surveying the field and assessing prospective stock to complement the Royal stud of France.

"I have heard for a number of years, Lord Gower, that the finest racing flesh resides across the Channel in England. I was of course loath to believe such a thing, but most curiously, after seeing so many specimens of excellence, I must confess that this might be so." He paused in his perambulations to admire a particularly sleek black stallion in one of the myriad paddocks.

"Do you know, what is the breeding of this horse, Lord Gower?"

"Hastings's Hawke? He is indeed a fine specimen! I believe he is by Francis Lord Godolphin's barb stallion, but I shall inquire further, if you so desire."

"The Godolphin again! He shall forever plague me, this horse!" Lord Gower gave an inquisitive look, and the count bowed to him slightly.

"It is said that one of the finest producers of racing champions in England was first cast off by Versailles. A very foolish move by the Grand Ecuyer, was it not?"

"Am I to assume that you refer to Lord Godolphin's stallion?"

"Indeed! One and the same, but the name was not so. In France, the stallion was called by El Sham. You do not know the history of this horse, Lord Gower?

"Only these past years while he stands in Cambridgeshire, Monsieur Le Grand."

"Then I shall recount to you this story, bien sur?"

"Indeed, I am most intrigued."

"The stallion, El Sham, was presented to His Majesty as one of eight horses-chevales pur sang arabes-from the Sultan Muley Abdulah of Moroc. The grand riding master at Versailles, Monsieur de La Gueriniere, the man whom I appoint, finds this stallion wanting, you see. As he is small in stature and not of the form preferred for the dressage, he is cast out from the stud Royale. This same horse was then procured by your Englishman, Monsieur Coke, who brings him to England, where he soon becomes the sire of champions! So you see that I, en effet, am responsible indirectly for this horse leaving France, and now I come to England to find such a one to take back! C'est l'ironie magnifique, n'est-ce pas?" He recounted his tale with surprising good humor.

"Indeed, it is an amazing irony! But in all truth, this stallion's value was little realized at the first. When he left our poor departed Coke's hands Though most were well known to one another through their positions in Parliament, there was little speech outside the mundane, until the liveried footmen, garbed also to honor the French dignitary, served platters of delicacies, poured the imported French wine, and were dismissed by Lord Gower. The host took no chances in protecting the security of this meeting.

Noting the white cockades adorning each guest's lapel or tricorn, said host raised his glass to the company. "As each of us today has both literally and figuratively committed a horse to the race"-his eyes scanned those of the group for reaction to this fitting analogy-"I solemnly propose a toast to the king across the water."

Meet the Author

Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. Combine the three and you have the essence of her debut novel: a tale of love, war, politics, and horseracing. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in central Texas.

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The Highest Stakes 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
JOhn11JS More than 1 year ago
Guess I will start with the fact that several other reviewers pointed out that this is a debut author. If you didn't know you could never tell, this is a very well thought out novel with an exciting and intricate plot that is interweaved almost to perfection. Although over 500 pages, I never thought the novel was long and when the end came, I was ready for more. More do you hear that Emery Lee? The end invites several story lines to be continued and after reading several of the blogs the author is on, it looks like a sequel or prequel is in the works. I normally read King and Koontz, but I picked up this novel for my wife as it has horses and is a romance novel. I started to read it and did not put it down until I was over a hundred pages into it and found I was hooked. The characters are well formulated and real, not cardboard; they have flaws just like real people. The hero, heroine and villains develop and change because of their interactions with each other, they live in a world and time unlike our modern world and the voice of the author brings all this to vivid life. Then there is the horse aspect to the novel, I'm far from an expert on horses but I have been around them in my life and it is evident that Lee has a great love for them. Although the novel details many aspects of the horse, their training, linage and racing I never felt as though I was in school, the details presented are in context with the story. For me, the racing was especially of interest as the "wager" for love centers around several races. Each race has separate hooks and twists to draw the reader in and keep the pace going and the read enjoyable. One last observation, as an avid movie fan I could picture this novel in the cinema or maybe a BBC or A&E mini-series.
ihorsenanci More than 1 year ago
The Highest Stakes, a new book by Emery Lee, is a real winner in my estimation. The book is a fine combination of historical adventure, romance and best of all, horses, horses, horses. As a history of the early days of Thoroughbred racing in both England and America, it is very detailed and held my interest. Of course, I cut my horse-loving teeth on King of the Wind by M. Henry, a book about The Godolphin Arabian, one of the founding sires of the Thoroughbred breed and learned early on in my research of horse history about the other two Eastern stallions who were crossed on English mares to form the beginning of the Thoroughbred as a distinct breed. The excitement of horse racing endures to this day and it is well represented in this book, a first effort by Emery Lee. As a book lover and avid reader, I highly recommend this book.
LBH More than 1 year ago
This novel proves a rollicking ride through the world of 18th century horse-racing in America and Great Britain. Resonating with authenticity, the story unfolds in a setting that grows so familiar to the reader that it feels like a former home. Even though I know nothing about the turf world, I discovered it an enchanting place to visit. With meticulous research, the articulate and knowledgeable writer brings alive this exciting world and, against its backdrop, creates vividly human characters and a compellingly complex plot. I found the book impossible to put down. The only disappointment is reaching the end, knowing I have to close the book on the lives of these fascinating characters. My fingers are crossed for a sequel!
WendyAK More than 1 year ago
THE HIGHEST STAKES by Emery Lee is a delightful debut historical romance with twists and turns. This story definite has passion,intrigue, history, a love for horse racing, a love of horses, romance, betrayal, forgiveness and retribution. It is well written with depth and detail. The detail of Thoroughbred horse racing and all it involved in the 18th century in England and the colonies, especially Virginia is amazing and very interesting. The characters are charming, easy to follow and will pull you into the story with them. The secondary characters help keep the story going, although in my opinion are down right evil. It is a wonderful, delightful story of true love and retribution. The two main characters are truly in love, but due to betrayals and a mean uncle takes years to finally fulfill their dreams. If you enjoy history,intrique, romance, some suspense you will definitely enjoy this one. This is an author to be watching for. 4.5 *This book was recieved from the publisher for the purpose of a review*
gl More than 1 year ago
Emery Lee's The Highest Stakes opens at the races in Litchfield, Staffordshire in 1742. It's at this race that we're introduced to the characters that shape the novel. The race is for untried horses - those who have yet to win a race. Sir Garfield Wallace, a merchant who recently rose to the gentry, and an avid turf follower entered the gray mare White Rose ("Rosie") in the first race. But on the day of the race, the Wallaces are running late and the jockey, Sir Garfield's son Charles won't make it in time. The race is limited to gentlemen jockeys: no professional jockeys are allowed -- the horses must be ridden by the owner or a member of his family. Robert Devington who has worked for Sir Garfield as a trainer, jockey, and all around problem solver decides to take a dangerous risk and claims a relationship to the Wallace family in order to keep Rosie from forfeiting the race. Devington handles Rosie brilliantly though he wins the Wallaces considerable status, he finds himself shut out once again. Though much in love with Charlotte Wallace, Sir Garfield's niece, Robert decides that the best way to win her hand is to break away from the Wallaces and to make his own fortune. Robert enlists in the King's Horse. Robert Devington proves his mettle and somehow Robert's commanding officer, Captain Drake, becomes Robert's mentor and closest friend. Robert and Drake find themselves closely allied as they woo Sir Garfield's niece and daughter respectively. But romance, intrigue, and social ambition keep the lovers apart -- and make The Highest Stakes a fascinating and unusual read. In The Highest Stakes, the horse racing and breeding are more than a backdrop for the action and romance. It's the horses and those that breed, race and love them that give The Highest Stakes its unique and strong charm. I've loved horses and riding since I was young, but I think most animal lovers and lovers of historical fiction will find The Highest Stakes to be an engrossing and satisfying read. ISBN-10: 1402236425 - Paperback Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; 1 edition (April 1, 2010), 560 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
Highest Stakes is an historical fiction novel with some very strong romantic elements. It was a very interesting mix of romance, class struggle, friendships, and (as you can tell from the cover) horse racing. All these aspects mix in the form of Robert and his pursuit of his employer's daughter, Charlotte. When her guardians refuse to allow him to marry her, he sets off to prove he is more than just a worker - he joins the King's Horse. This is where he befriends Drake, the second son of an Earl. The lives of these three people intertwine in an amazing way. The way their individual stories combined to create this world far exceeded my expectations. While Robert's story seems to be the main focus, we get to experience life from the point of view of all three characters. It gives enlightenment as to their actions, which at times seems to run counter to logic, but you come to understand their innermost desires and code by watching them make the tough decisions. A lot of these decisions center around the popular sport of horse racing - of which Robert is an expert in both breeding and riding. In fact, he bets many life altering decisions on the outcome of horse races, including being able to wed the love of his life, Charlotte. Having worked at a stable when I was in junior high and loving horses my whole life, I thoroughly enjoyed the horse aspect of the story. A few of the horses almost become main characters, especially Mars and Amoret, and you really get to know their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. I enjoyed their part of the story just as much as I enjoyed the romance and the people. The plot twists and turns a lot so don't ever be surprised at anything that happens. In the end there is a bit of a happily ever after - for at least some people. You can tell there is more to the story and book two is the continuation of the story of this group of people, their friends and family.
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
By: Emery Lee Published By: Sourcebooks Landmark Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: 5 Series" Georgian Gamester #1 Review: "Highest Stakes" by Emery Lee was a good historical romantic novel which was about 'Equine' ... horses. This was taken from the 18th century setting mostly in England's Georgian period where you will find 'the history of horse racing provide an educational read, while the plot is part love story and part adventure thriller.' The three main characters: Charlotte, Robert and Philip. "While the characters are involved in all that would be expected of a romance novel, the focus is not really on their relationships that much but, on the horses, themselves." This author really worked her magic with the horses...the sound and temperament simply came to life in the read. After completing my read I found that if you like the be around horses, you will enjoy the novel. Now add to the story horses, friendship, intrigue, betrayal and romance and you have a mighty good read. Be ready in "The Highest Stakes" horse racing, breeding will only a mere 'backdrop for the action and romance' of it all. Again, if you are a animal lover of horses and 'lovers of historical fiction' then this novel would be recommended to you.
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Humbee More than 1 year ago
"Set against the sights, sounds, and excitement of the brand new sport of thoroughbred racing. "The Highest Stakes" is a story of drama, love, and retribution in a world where pedigree is everything and fortunes can be won and lost in the blink of an eye." This is the cover description of Emery Lee's extraordinary book, "The Highest Stakes." I'm never one to explain the story of a book, since that's something easily found on the covers or with a nod to the summaries already written. My goal as a reviewer is to tell more about the author's abilities to convey that story, and to give a personal sense of how it translates to the reader. "The Highest Stakes," is a book I took a risk on reading. I'm not one who knows horses. Having been completely in the dark about them, I've never grown to appreciate their history or people's attachments to them. But, when I saw Emery Lee's book, it seemed like a good time to jump in and try to see this side of things. I started reading with a jaded mind...I didn't expect to finish the book. Surprisingly enough, I was mesmorized! Ms. Lee writes about horses, races, breeding horses, and riders as if these things were at the heart of all life. It is captivating! There is much to be learned about the history of horse racing. The breeding of horses and how they develop a racing horse was so interesting written from Emery's hand, and the training of a race horse became alive...almost sensual. My heart raced when the races were described! Emery Lee is a highly articulate, intelligent writer. She has an infinite grasp of the English language of the times in which her book takes place and of the entire setting of her story. Her characters are subtle and strong. They are absorbing in their trueness and honesty, and their love of horses. There is a love story at the heart of this novel; however, it is beautifully balanced with the story of the horses as they are entwined. This is an intelligent book. It is a book to be taken seriously. A book that will teach and thrill, I recommend it especially to those who know and love horses and English stories of the 1700's. While "The Highest Stakes" may fall into the category of historical romance, the excellence of Emery Lee's writing is far beyond this genre in particular. This is a stand-alone novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MasonCanyon More than 1 year ago
The love of all things equine first drew me to Emery Lee's debut novel, "The Highest Stakes." The author's ability to spin a story keep me entranced between the covers of this moving historical romance. "The Highest Stakes" is set in England during the mid-18th century. At that time, horseracing was a gentleman's sport catering to the society of nobility. This is the story of forbidden love, greed, hatred, revenge, and retribution with a good dose of history mixed in. The story focuses on star-crossed lovers Charlotte Wallace and Robert Devington. After being orphaned at age 13, Charlotte goes to live with her uncle, Sir Garfield Wallace, and his family. There she meets Robert, a stable boy in her uncle's employ. Robert teaches Charlotte to ride and their love of horses, as well as for each other, blossoms. But their love is never meant to be it seems. No matter what Robert does to prove his love and worth, Charlotte's uncle will not hear of their union. He is willing to sacrifice Charlotte's happiness for a better status in social standings. Author Emery Lee takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns, of highs and lows, and love and betrayal. Ever present in the backdrop is thoroughbred horseracing. From beginning to end, the author keeps you guessing and wanting for more. You don't have to be a horse lover or race enthusiast to enjoy this book. The story is written in the language of 18th century England. For the reader unaccustomed to reading the language it takes a little bit to get familiar with. However, once the reader does they find it adds so much flavor to the story and puts them in that era. From beginning to end, author Emery Lee has a blueblood winner with "The Highest Stakes."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Little_Fawn More than 1 year ago
As someone interested in the culture and times of the mid-1700's, I found this novel an interesting look at the lives of the "gentry" as well as the "commoners" surrounding them. The development of the horse to become known as the thoroughred is "on track", no pun intended. There was enough real history and culture of the times interwoven into the plot to lend credence to the story and keep me interested in following the lives of Charlotte and Robert, as well as wondering what will become of poor Philip. While the development of the characters occurs in England, the arrival of Robert in Virginia in pre-revolutionary America, added more twists and turns to this plot than the proverbial spaghetti bowl. Just when I thought I had figured out the story between the characters, the story changed course. I was skeptical of this novel at first, as I am not a fan of romantic fiction. However, I am a fan of horses and of revolutionary war history and culture. I was delightfully surprised to find that this book exceeded my expectations. While the characters are involved in all that would be expected of a romance novel, the focus is not really on their relationships that much but, on the horses, themselves. Perhpas it was just my perception, but I found the development of personalities and characteristics of the horses absolutely delightful. The descriptions of soundness and temperment fascinated me. I especially loved Amoret and could imagine owning her (or she owning me). If you are someone who likes to be around horses, I think you will enjoy this book. You may find yourself enjoying the people interacting with their horses, moreso than with each other. I found myself escaping into the culture of the time and just enjoying the horses, themselves.
Equilady1 More than 1 year ago
THE HIGHEST STAKES - Review by Equilady1 Although I am not a big book reader, particularly in a literal sense (and this is a very big read) I am a lifelong lover of all things equine. The horse racing alone gave this novel enough mystique for me to pick it up, and although it was a big investment of my time to read, it was absolutely worth it! I was totally engrossed by the historical aspects of this book from an equine perspective. The author fills the pages with so many fascinating facts and details about 18th century horse racing, training and breeding practices. As to the love story of Robert and Charlotte - although I've never been one for sappiness and detest romance novels, the relationship between Robert and Charlotte was so real to me it was almost tangible. Theirs was true love born of a shared passion for horses and each other. And sooo much treachery!! I couldn't put it down! Plot twists and outright villainy in this book keep me turning the pages well into the night. For horse lovers - this book surely deserves five stars.
DazzlingDiane More than 1 year ago
What first piqued my interest in THE HIGHEST STAKES was the back cover blurb about the origins of Throroughbred racing and pedigrees, but the book proved to be so much more than a bland history of horseracing! The book opens with a horse race described in such blow-by-blow detail, that I felt like an active participant. The suspense became so heightened I felt I had placed actual stakes on the race in which Robert Devington rode. I was then captivated by the heartrending story between Robert, a lowly stable groom and Charlotte, the orphaned niece of ambitious relatives, and the tenacity of this relationship against all odds. Each time it appears Robert and Charlotte will be together, something unexpected and drastic follows these star-crossed lovers. Ruthlessness and villainy seem always to prevail. Having little prior knowledge of the Georgian era, I was fascinated by the details of the nobility, their lifestyles, and pride in breeding. The excitement of the story kept me on the edge of my seat for hundreds of pages in a sitting. I would highly recommend the book to anyone interested in history, horses and true love. FIVE STARS
Mamablue More than 1 year ago
I was initially drawn to this book because of the many high recommendations, but I honestly wish I had passed it up. While it was somewhat intriguing and informative (especially the parts about the history of horse racing, which I did enjoy), I was very disappointed with the characters and plot resolution. WARNING: Plot spoilers: It's been a long time since I have read a book with so many wasted characters who, through bad choices they made, suffer pain and needless agony. There was only one main character who aroused my empathy, and even though he attempted to repair past damages, he was doomed to a miserable life because others could not forgive or move on themselves. Every single character in the book was in a situation not of their own choosing, but none of them could make choices to improve their ability to endure their situation, even if the circumstances themselves couldn't change. Even the two main characters, whom I wanted to like, were so bitter and self-absorbed they became un-likeable. By the end of the book, I really didn't care what became of them. The book ended so abruptly, I found myself re-reading the last few pages to see if I had missed something. And did I think that things would work out well for the star-crossed lovers? Absolutely not. They hadn't done anything to warrant my confidence that they could change! I dislike writing negative reviews. But I honestly did not like how I felt at the end of the book, and others may feel the same way.