Book critic Erin McCabe reviews a Colette Aulair’s forthcoming novel, a sexy rom-com set in a stable.
I am a sucker for many things: baby animals, chocolate, green saddle pads, good romantic comedies. A romantic comedy with horses and a feisty protagonist? That’s a no-brainer! Still, I admit I was a bit skeptical when I picked up Thrown by Colette Auclair (www.coletteauclair.com). I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to buy a HorseGirl (Amanda) successfully snagging a Movie Star (Grady), especially when she is portrayed as a baseball cap wearing, ponytail sporting, dirt-under-her-fingernails picking, green-horse-slobber-all-over-her-shirt wearing, no make-up kind of gal (in other words, totally accurate, as far as HorseGirls go). Especially when it opens with Amanda, a spunky Grand-Prix jumper rider turned riding instructor breaking her new employer Grady’s Emmy. Especially when he is described as hotter than George Clooney. But you know what? Colette Auclair totally pulls it off.
She also nails the horse stuff (just in case the above description of Amanda didn’t convince you), whether it’s describing Amanda’s selection of appropriate mounts for Grady’s beginner daughters, or setting up a human cross-country course for the girls to play Olympics over, or accurately detailing an episode of colic (including the joy when the horse finally poops), or explaining the feeling of connecting with a once-in-a-lifetime horse.
But my favorite part about the book, aside from the discussions of how horse training prepares just about anyone for human training (whether that means turning Grady’s snotty daughters Solstice and Wave into full-fledged HorseGirls who love barn chores or dealing with over-protective Grady as if he’s a green horse at his first horse show), is the humor. Seriously, there were some lines that had me actually chuckling out loud, which is not something I often do when reading (cry, yes; laugh, no). For instance, “I love it when you talk rein contact.” Or, after a nasty slip in the barn aisle, Grady leaves Amanda leaning up against the wall while he fetches the car to take her to the ER and Amanda thinks to herself, “What am I– a rake?” Leave it to a HorseGirl to think in terms of barn tools. And there are also some neat horse-specific images, such as “fear was a cutting horse in her throat, herding those three little words away.”
Aside from getting the horse stuff right, the characters are also well-developed. Both Amanda and Grady have pasts that have left them with scars that are convincingly addressed in the novel (and that help make it a bit more than just a romance). Even the minor characters are well developed enough that I can overlook the ones who are a bit stereotypical (e.g. Harris, Grady’s gay BFF turned chef who makes wicked cocktails and also becomes Amanda’s BFF and stylist).
There was one unnecessary plot-twist involving Grady and his reaction to a detail he learns late in the game about Amanda’s past. It threatened to pull me out of the story entirely, until it was resolved in such a way that made it more believable. And then, of course, there’s the fact that all romances must end “happily-ever-after” and this means Grady is really too good to be true. As in I-will-buy-you-a million-dollar-horse too good to be true. But then again, who doesn’t want to daydream about the existence of such a guy? Let’s just say the book’s ending is exactly what one would want.
Some warnings: The book is only available as an ebook. My version had some wonky formatting, but I assume this is because I got an advance copy. Hopefully all that stuff will be worked out in the final version, available Dec. 13. (You can pre-order via Amazon here.) The story is quite a page-turner, so be prepared to be completely unable to stop–like a runaway horse except actually fun. And the book does have one pretty detailed sex scene and multiple explicit make out sessions, so it’s not for kids. Bottom line: if you like romantic comedies this is a book you’ll definitely enjoy. Oh, and if I’m not deceived, there’s a second book (a sequel?) coming out in June!
Erin McCabe rides two OTTB mares and hopes to someday soon get back to competing at horse trials. Her first novel, I Shall Be Near To You, is forthcoming from Crown Publishing in January 2014. You can learn more at erinlindsaymccabe.com.