Some of you may remember my blog a couple of weeks ago where I alluded to having some exciting news – My Childhood Library – and now I can reveal all.
I recently received an email from Hannah Hooton, author of the Aspen Valley books, asking me if I would be willing to review her new book, Making The Running, on my blog. Now, this was quite exciting for me. Firstly, I love reading so to be given an excuse to read even more is brilliant. Secondly, I had already heard of Hannah Hooton and had enjoyed the books I`d previously read, so it was a win-win situation.
It was about three years ago when I first came across the series of Aspen Valley books, when I was off work injured and filling my days reading my kindle and doing jigsaws. Anyway, over the last couple of weeks I`ve read the rest of the Aspen Valley series to satisfy my OCD for reading books in chronological order, and so that I was fully prepared for the latest instalment this weekend.
To me, one of the signs of a good book or series is when you remember the characters and plots. Despite reading the first book “Keeping the Peace” more than two years ago I could still remember the protagonists` names and the basic storyline, which means that the subsequent books make much better reading, as the background and histories of the characters are familiar to the reader.
This Aspen Valley series centres around Aspen Valley Racing Stables and are, I guess, classified as racing romances. Now, I don`t know much about the ins and outs of horse racing, which is why I never started reading books by Dick Francis – probably to my Mum`s great relief as it means her bookshelf is still intact! However, Hannah Hooton keeps technical terms to a minimum, whilst explanations are succinct and clear. The books are light hearted and witty, making them easy to read in an evening, and have plenty of modern associations – Fifty Shades of Grey makes one of two appearances…
Anyway, I`d better get on with this review! “Making the Running” starts in a different way to the previous books, in that the main focus initially is on romance and the horses take a back seat. I would describe the other books as horse racing with a hint of mystery and a dash of romance, whereas “Making the Running” starts as romance against a backdrop of horse racing, before the racing world steps into the limelight half way through.
The book follows Kate, a stable girl at Aspen Valley, and her relationship with racing manager, Nicholas, and his race jockey brother, Benedict. What I really liked about “Making the Running” was how, despite new protagonists the loose ends from previous books are tied up. For example, Jack and Pippa met in the first book ” Keeping the Peace”, and by this fourth book we learn that they are now married and have a toddler. This makes Aspen Valley a more believable place as, much like a soap opera, characters continue to play an important role in other plots.
As Kate discovers her feelings towards the two brothers, the closet skeletons of her teenage years come back to haunt her as she tries to help her younger sister and brother make the transition into independence. Meanwhile, to give the reader a good equine storyline Kate`s favourite Aspen Valley horse, d`Artagnan, is embroiled in some race rigging. Angry that d`Artagnan isn`t allowed to do the best he can at the races, Kate investigates the motives of Nicholas and Ben, as well as their relationship with each other and herself.
“Making the Running” has many more exciting racing scenes than in previous books. The fast paced descriptions made my heart race as I imagined the horses fighting it out over famous racecourses. The balance between the simplicity of describing the race and giving my imagination enough fuel to see the horses jumping the hedge, pecking on landing and jockeys scrubbing their hands was perfect. I was riding those races and, at the same time, jumping up and down on the siderail as my favourite passed the finish line.
As with all good novels, Kate builds bridges with her family, works out who she loves, and helps d’Artagnan in his racing career. The plot had a couple of extra twists though, which kept me on the edge of my seat until I had read 99% of the book and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, I assume so, but I guess Book Five will tell me that!
I can`t resist putting in my favourite quote. It, along with several others, made me giggle out loud – much to the amusement of the xBox-playing-other-half.
Saskia looked doubtful. “Maybe I shouldn`t encourage him. I don`t really fancy dating a Welshman.”
“Have you seen their language? It looks like a dictionary sneezed.”
As a reluctant Welsh-learner at school, I can fully relate to this!
Making the Running can be purchased through Amazon by clicking here, and I`m sure many of you will be interested to know the the first book, Keeping the Peace is currently available to download free.
P.S. if you don`t know the first thing about the world of horse racing then Keeping the Peace is the place to start, as it`s protagonist, Pippa, comes from London and doesn`t know one end of a horse from the other!
Hannah`s website is here if anyone would like more information about her or her books.