by Sara Gruen
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Water for Elephants was one of the best books I’d ever read, so when I was in the Mexico City airport last week with 500 pesos and an extra ninety minutes before my flight – and nothing to read – I took a chance and got Sara Gruen’s earlier book Riding Lessons.
I was expecting plain prose that nevertheless forms incredibly vivid imagery, but I was not expecting a novel that was essentially a conventional romance, albeit one dressed up for dressage and including an angst-ridden mother-daughter relationship. What is it about everyone writing snotty teenagers into their work lately?
Simplified, the plot seems almost cliche: Annemarie has a tragic accident while competing in an equestrian event, turns her back on all things equine, marries a man she doesn’t really love, and ends up divorced with a snotty teenaged daughter. She moves back home to the family farm (and riding academy) where she makes her peace with her estranged mother and dying father, strikes up a romance with the local vet, whom she knew as a much younger woman, and yes, eventually does save the farm and live to tell about it.
Of course, there’s a second love affair in the tale as well: that of Annemarie and her horse, Highland Harry, who died in the tragic accident, and the new horse, troubled and injured, she adopts from the vet’s rescue, and insists is Harry’s long-lost brother.
Fans of romance and horses will enjoy this book, and I must admit, for a cliche it was still an enjoyable read, but I’m glad Gruen’s storytelling has evolved since this was originally published.
Goes well with: Strong coffee, worn jeans, and country-western music. Even if it does take place in New Hampshire.