Book Review : Making the Running
These thoughts and opinions are mine and I did not receive any payment for this review.
I was surprised and quite chuffed to receive a message on the Tails From Provence Facebook page, asking me if I would review a book. Without really thinking about it, I said I’d be delighted to. And then I started to wonder, what if it’s crap? What am I going to say if it’s really bad? I hate hurting peoples’ feelings – what if I felt I had to say ‘It’s Awful’? How would the author feel? I’m terribly insecure about my own writing and I think I’d be gutted if anyone was really nasty about something I had written.
When Making the Running arrived (by Facebook message. Don’t you just love the modern world!) I was just finishing off The $700 Pony. I took a little break from horsey reading and read a couple of Frank O Connor short stories in between the two and then, seeing as I was pretty much housebound anyway, I bravely ventured into Making the Running, notepad open on the laptop screen beside me. This is work, I told myself, as I diligently began to jot down my thoughts as I read.
One chapter in and I was thinking Phew! This is actually ok! A couple of chapters later, and I was totally hooked. It no longer felt like work, and I kept forgetting to make notes. Oops.
Making the Running is the fourth in Hannah Hooton’s Aspen Valley series, which follow lives of the people involved with a large racing yard (Aspen Valley). It’s a light-hearted romance with stable lass, Kate, as the main character. Kate is a likeable heroine who loves her equine charges, works hard and dreams of someday leading a horse up at Cheltenham. She shares a flat with her sister (Saskia) and it becomes clear early on that she really looks out for Saskia. The reason soon becomes apparent, when we learn that their childhood was marred by an absent father and an alcoholic mother. From an early age, Kate has had to care for her siblings, simply because her mother was unable to, and she fusses and worries over Saskia and her teenage brother Xander as much as any parent would. (Kate was the lucky one when it came to choosing names, mind you. Saskia? And Xander?? Really? Poor kids!)
The romantic lead is cast in chapter two, at a disastrous dinner party given by a friend of Saskia. As I said, it’s a light-hearted romance, so we are left in no doubt as to which of the two brothers, Ben and Nicholas, will end up with Kate. The fun part is how we eventually get there. There are some laugh out loud moments along the way, like the Code Brown at the dinner party – well, I laughed out loud, but maybe just because I’ve been there, done that! Or the first date and all that went wrong there…
I loved the fact that there are plenty of up to date cultural references – music, celebrities, cinema and even an oblique reference to Candy Crush. This all adds to the ‘real’ feeling of the book. The description of the life of a stable lad/lass seems pretty accurate to me, too. There are lots of moments for the horsey reader to identify with – simple little things, like “she’d pulled his mane too short and now it stood up like an eighties punk rocker’s” (Yup, done that) or, at the racecourse, “D’Artagnan gave a small rear and took off with a propulsive fart.” (Been there. Not at the races, mind you. And it was my horse that took off with a small rear and a propulsive fart, not me…)
It’s clear that Hannah Hooton knows horses and the racing industry very well indeed. I do have one small quibble on equestrian accuracy, though, and it’s in a scene that takes place at the Racehorse Rehabilitation centre. Kate does some flatwork on a horse called South of Jericho, after which she goes to jump some cross country fences. No, wait! (and I’m paraphrasing here) says Ben, who has been coaching her. You need to let your stirrups down to jump!
Um, no. If he was going to tell her to let her stirrups down, it would have been when she started riding on the flat. The ‘fingers brushing against the inside of her thigh’ incident could still have happened…
The dialogue is realistic and believable – most of the time. There were one or two times when I felt the it was either a bit stilted or somewhat unlikely, but this never interfered with my enjoyment of the story. There’s the occasional moment of passion but, unlike 50 Shades of Grey (which is one of the cultural references I mentioned above) it’s not central to the story, but is an important element nonetheless.
The book does have its serious moments, both with the horses and with family life. Horses and people get injured and sick, just like in real life, and Kate and her mother finally start to tackle the alcoholism which has ruined their relationship. Will they defeat the demon drink? Will Kate’s favourite horse make it to Cheltenham? Will she figure out who is the right guy for her? Will he, in turn, realise that she is the right girl for him?
Final verdict? Buy it, if you’re looking for light reading with a horsey flavour so strong you can almost smell the manure! I plan on downloading the other three onto my Kindle. I’m that impressed.
Purchase information :
You can visit Hannah Hooton’s website to check out all of her works and to read a sample of each book.
Making the Running can be bought on Here on Amazon but, better still, the first book in the series, Keeping the Peace, is available to download for free on Amazon! Wait, what am I doing here – I’m off to download it now!