Wednesday Book Review: ‘Renaissance Man’

Saying goodbye is hard to do. Erin McCabe reviews Renaissance Man, the third and final book in M. Garzon’s Blaze of Glory series.

From Erin:

Renaissance Man is the third and final installment in M. Garzon’s ( Blaze of Glory series, and while you could certainly read it without reading the previous two books (Blaze of Glory and Look Twice), it would just be silly not to indulge yourself and read the whole series. Not only will you have a much better sense of who the characters are and where they’ve been, but I’m reasonably certain that any HorseGirl over age 15 or so (thanks to the mature themes and issues the books delve into) will enjoy the series.

Just like Look Twice, Renaissance Man picks up exactly where Tea and Jaden’s story left off. Tea and Jaden are still struggling to negotiate their tricky family dynamics, with family members who are still less-than-thrilled that these step-cousins are dating. They are committed to each other though, whatever the obstacles may be. With Jaden having given up his career as a polo player to pursue full time his goal of becoming a lawyer and Tea studying to eventually become a veterinarian, their lives seem headed in the right direction. But Tea struggles to find her footing now that her rock, her twin brother Seth, is in Europe spending time with their biological father. She is forced to shoulder even more of the responsibilities of running the family’s lesson and training barn, and struggles to balance her schoolwork with her own riding goals. Things are even more complicated because Tea finally finds herself with a talented jumper and clients who want her to take him to the top shows (Spruce Meadows, anyone?). Rather than having more time to spend with Jaden now that he’s not gallivanting around, playing polo in Florida, Tea discovers that in order to pursue her career as a top jumper rider, she now must travel the show circuit. Not only that, but despite earning good grades easily, Tea has little interest in her classwork.

When Jaden asks Tea to consider living with him, speaking increasingly of marriage and family, and her adopted father Dec informs her that there’s pressure from the rest of the family to sell the family business, Tea finds herself questioning everything she’s worked so hard to attain. Despite her unwavering passion and devotion to Jaden and the horses, she can’t help but wonder whether it will be possible for her to have both. As the two struggle to make time to see each other and as Tea delays her decision to move in with Jaden, the tension between the two builds.

What I most appreciate about this final installment of the series is the way in which the characters navigate what is one of the trickiest battles for any devoted HorseGirl: how does one combine the grand passion of horses with a career, a spouse, and children? As Tea squares her vision of the future with Jaden’s, Garzon touches on each of these issues, making the story one that will resonate with older teens who are just embarking on the same journey, and with those of us who already have spouses and children and are still working out the details of dovetailing all of the loves of our lives. I don’t want to give anything away, and maybe it’s just me, but to see those emotions and fears that are unique to HorseGirls addressed on the page and to recognize myself in Tea’s struggles was like slathering on a good salve—it makes you feel better even if it doesn’t really fix anything. If you’ve ever wondered how you can ever “do it all” then this book is for you. I’m not saying the book gives any easy answers (dang it), but at least it’s nice to see a character working out a solution to the work/life balance issue in a way that takes the complication of horses into account.

This installment is chock full of riding, jumping, and showing including a scene at Spruce Meadows that includes my favorite line in the book (which I’m stealing as my mantra next time I head into the show ring), “The sky was above me, the earth was below me, and the fire was within me. It was time to fan the flames.” But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of romance here, and for the non-horsey, I don’t think the horse stuff is overwhelming (though really, who am I to judge?). As with the previous two books, this one maintains a brisk pace. I found myself reading late into the night, devouring chapter after chapter, helpless to put it down (luckily technology intervened and the battery ran out on my Kindle—otherwise I might have ended up staying up all night to finish). And while I am sad to say goodbye to these characters, Garzon gives us a conclusion to smile about. Oh, and rumor is, there’s a spin-off book coming soon that will follow Seth on his European travels (which I’m pretty sure means we’ll get to spend some time with him on an Irish Stud Farm!) so maybe we won’t have to say goodbye to everyone just yet (and then there’s always the up-coming TV series).



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