A believable tale about an earnest boy’s life-changing summer.

HORSE BOYS

A sensitive preteen is sent off to work as a stable boy in Wisconsin in Blossom’s (Trespassing, 2017) novel.

Michael Bentley starts the summer of 1969 as a shy 13-year-old theater aficionado and a reluctant worker at Lakeside Stables, which sells rides to attendees at nearby camps. Michael’s mother suffers from multiple sclerosis, and with finances tight, the family can’t afford his normal summer activities, which include theater and golfing. He’s the runt of the Lakeside group, which includes the college-aged bosses Hank Nelson and Cal Masterson, and experienced teens Wyatt Moretti, Earl Thorne, Parker Moretti, and Lenny White. The five teens are the so-called “peons” at the stables, who must rise early and do grunt work. Together, the boys wrangle horses, ride them between two camps, and entertain campers with made-up stories of various antics. Michael, for instance, is called “Coolidge” by one of the bosses, and he quickly adopts a goofy, tough persona to go with the new moniker. But in trying to keep up with the older boys, Coolidge, or “Cool” for short, often finds himself out of his depth. They dare him to take on risky challenges, such as riding a hostile horse or showering under a stream of water pouring from an abandoned, rotting mill. Blossom, through his wide-eyed narrator, creates a character that readers can root for. Cool, despite his false name, is an honest, self-aware guide through the rough-and-tumble world of the titular horse boys, clearly identifying the thrills of peer pressure and the insecurity of young adulthood. This is particularly true when the subject of girls comes up: Wyatt, Earl, Parker, and Lenny all tell exciting tales of midnight rides that pique Cool’s curiosity about the opposite sex. However, they also start to change the way that he thinks about women. At one point, for instance, he entertains a comparison between girls and horses (“Maybe it was a bit like using the breaking corral for horses: control the location, whittle away resistance slowly, insist on results”). Readers will find such naïveté chilling but compelling.

A believable tale about an earnest boy’s life-changing summer.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-981248-63-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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