There have been several stories lately that have taken place among the horse industry of Ireland (or Irish families in the horse industries of America). If you love these stories, here’s another one for you.
Caitlin Claiborne left her husband, a powerful Kentucky man, because he was cheating on her. She took her kids, her champion mare, Kentucky Gold, and half of her assets and moved back to Ireland. While she was a rebellious child growing up there, she couldn’t wait to leave. Now it’s the only place she feels she can go. Once back in Ireland, Caitlin, her kids, and her mother are all in for some adjustments and some healing (and in Caitlin’s case, a little growing up).
I liked Caitlin. She was a strong woman who had to go through some hard times to achieve academic and economic success. After leaving Ireland to work with horses, she eventually earned her business degree and made valuable contributions to the Claiborne horse empire. She’s equally determined to fit in back home in Ireland, even though she’s changed and feels somewhat out of place. She gambles her future on one horse, the one her pregnant mare is carrying, which turns out to have been a flawed decision.
Brian Hennessey is a very beta hero. He’s the manager/trainer where Caitlin stables her horse. He is immediately attracted to Caitlin, and once he falls, he falls hard. Their relationship seemed quite sudden, and I doubt that I would be ready for another marriage before my current one was officially ended. But perhaps that’s just me.
Jeanette Baker fills this story with rich detail about horses and Ireland, but all the horse breeding and racing information bogs down the story in the beginning and through the middle. The narrative eventually picks up towards the end of the middle section to a reasonable pace, and by this time I was engaged enough in the story that I really wanted to finish the book. I got a great feel for the community of Kilcullen, a place where everybody knows your business. Catholicism plays an important part in the culture of the village, and it is included in the story.
Brigid, Caitlin’s mother, and Annie and Ben, Caitlin’s kids, were the main secondary characters. Annie needed a good smack on the behind at times, but if my mother uprooted me to a strange country, I might feel a little irritated, too. The relationship between Caitlin and Brigid isn’t an easy one, but they come to an understanding. This story reminds me of the movie Hope Floats, but it’s better (I hated that movie). It’s depressing at times, but ultimately it gets better.
Sam Claiborne and Lana Sullivan are two spoilers in the story. Sam for the obvious reasons – he wants his kids and horses back from Caitlin, and takes some nasty measures to get what he wants. Lana is a local lass with a crush on Brian, and when he makes it clear he loves Caitlan, Lana behaves badly – “romance novel” badly. One other problem – Caitlin has a secret that’s too obvious. I saw it coming a mile away.
This is not a bad book. The detail and the fast clip of the second half of the story combine to overcome its slow start. Just don’t pick this one up if you’re looking for a lighthearted story because you won’t find it here.