In Martin’s debut novel, a divorced female rancher in 1970s Texas tries to start her life afresh but finds unexpected obstacles along the way.
Shannon Murphy, the 39-year-old daughter of a successful realtor and horse racer, has recently escaped from an abusive marriage and is looking to build a new life. Her father, Todd, is ready to retire and remain in Houston instead of handling the day-to-day responsibilities of his ranch. Shannon is delighted by the opportunity to manage the ranch in her father’s absence, as she enjoys quiet, reflective time out in the country. She quickly proves herself to be a natural, deftly overseeing the stables and confidently navigating employee disputes and relationships. When she discovers that one of her father’s horses is talented enough to become a racing sensation, she relishes the possibility of taking her father’s ranch to new heights. (Along the way, Martin treats readers to subtle details about caring for racehorses, choosing the right trainers and jockeys, and knowing when a horse should quit.) Everything seems to be moving in the right direction until Todd’s second wife, Dottie, is injured on the ranch. Todd blames Shannon for the accident, setting off a series of events that derails her new way of life. After abandoning her doting boyfriend, Shannon leaves the ranch to spend time soul-searching in the Davis Mountains of southwest Texas. On her journey, she begins to understand herself on a deeper level. As Martin tells Shannon’s engaging story, she gives it a sense of authenticity by weaving in rich historical and cultural elements. She delves into the difficult relationships between Mexican immigrants and ranchers, the struggles of isolated living in rural Texas, and the relentless financial competition and double-dealing among ranchers—all without slowing the action-packed narrative. She also effectively looks at the battles that families endure over misunderstandings.
A fast-paced Southwestern family saga about fast horses and coming-of-age in middle age.