I love books, I love reading, and it used to be one of my favorite things to do. I suppose technically it still is, I just don’t have as much time to do it anymore. But, I found myself with some extra time to read, and I decided to read a book simply for the fun of it. I choose The Horsewomen, by James Patterson and Mike Lupica. I have read many books by James Patterson. I think his books are suspenseful, interesting, and keep me glued to the pages.
This book… was not it. I feel like I’m supposed to like it because it’s about horses, but there’s so many reasons I did not. I am also wondering about how much of this was actually written by James Patterson, because it does not seem like his usual work. Maybe Mike Lupica wrote most of it, and then they threw the manuscript at James Patterson, and he caught it. That was the extent of his involvement. I’m well aware that a lot of these big name writers are more of a brand, with books being ghost written by others, and I’m not sure if that was the case here or not. This book is just boring. But it moved me enough to write an entire review about it, complete with some AI images to illustrate.
Book covers are often chosen by someone other than the author. They are a marketing tool, designed to grab the right person’s interest so they will buy the book.
So the marketing team of this book decided that “horse people” are a big, stereotypical blob, and picked two women riding western in the sunset. All horse people love that, swish.
This book is about two women showing jumpers in Wellington, which is a world away from western trail riding. But that probably doesn’t matter, a horse is a horse, as they say.
All I can imagine is that what they are actually targeting is people who like horses, but know next to nothing about them. Or they themselves don’t know enough to get the right image. They were really close though, if they had the same image but English saddles, it probably would have worked. The women do go for a trail ride in the story. So close.
The plot is pretty basic. It’s two women, a mother and daughter, who ride horses at the shows in Wellington, Florida. They both have a horse they ride, and early on in the story, the mother falls off, hurts herself, and loses confidence. The daughter starts competing on her fancy horse, and there’s some jealousy between the two women as they swap horses, and then swap back. They decide they both want to compete at the Olympics in Paris (so this is actually set in the future, as that will be held summer 2024.) Along the way they have hurdles such as mean people, having to qualify to be on the team, and if they should date their trainers.
Wellington, Florida, is the playground of the very wealthy horse people, which means I’ve never been. But I can imagine how the shows look, like my AI generated image to the left.
I think this is supposed to be a bit of an escapist book where us poors imagine the world of elite show jumping. The descriptions were kind of lacking, so it’s not making me wish I was there in anyway. But what wasn’t lacking was the amount of detail in every course, to the point of boredom. I’m a horse person, I like jumping, and I still found it dull. I can’t imagine someone who wasn’t interested in horses wanted to read a play by play of striding to every jump when I’m bored of it. Is there a better way to make a description of riding a course sound more interesting? I don’t know, but luckily I’m not a professional fiction writer where I have to figure it out (…if only…)
You know what the most trendy female character is right now? It’s the sassy female, who takes no nonsense from anyone, and she’s her own woman, standing proud in a man’s world. Now take that character and duplicate it three times and you have the three main female characters, the grandmother, the mother, and the daughter. It’s the same character. They are all fierce horsewomen, who drink and cuss, and aren’t going to take any poo-poo from anyone. The only other females are the other name-dropped female riders, Georgina and Jennifer, and also generic female rider #3, who all have no personalities, as they are only in the story to show that the author was able to google for some big name celebrity riders and also create a random red-shirt, throwaway character (she doesn’t die, just gets an injured horse, but in horse world that’s basically the same thing..)
You might be saying, well, yeah they are all related, and they’re working together to save the farm or something, so they’re going to be similar. Well, worry not, because the male characters are basically exactly the same!
They are no nonsense, determined, sassy, cussing and drinking men, who will do anything to get what they want. Except for the one trainer of the main character, as the love interest, who is almost the same, but a gentle version, because otherwise he might be too intimidating. He also has the most interesting side story going on, as he’s arrested by immigration and put in jail, but once he’s in jail, he’s only mentioned in passing in the background, while another determined, sassy man does some lawyering to free him.
The horses have no real characteristics except that they’re good. They are really good horses, you’ll have to trust me. They have warmblood breeding attached to them, so they really are the bestest horses.
One of them is the daughter’s horse. The daughter really likes her horse, the book tells us. The horse is a grey mare, and it is a warmblood. It’s smaller than the other horse. That’s about the extent of information given about this horse.
The other horse is the mother’s horse. This horse is big, and it’s the best horse, everyone agrees on that. It’s big and it’s a warmblood. Did I mentioned it is the best? It does have a long stride, the mother must adapt for this long stride, and this part comes up in every course ride play by play.
That’s about all you need to know about the horses. I didn’t decide that, the book did, by providing almost no information about these horses.
The bad guy in the story is the part owner of the mother’s horse. The horse is jointly owned by the sassy grandmother and the sassy man-villain. Man-villain wants his horse to win, but seems to have no concept of horses in any way. He knows that a blue ribbon means a win, and that’s basically it. Since he wants his horse to win, he’s decided that a different sassy man should be riding the horse, instead of the mother who fell off early on and lost her confidence. So man-villain seems to want horse and mother (and/or daughter) to fail. He keeps trying to set up ways for the mother to fail, except he basically does nothing except complain to sassy man-rider about how the mother (and/or daughter) should be failing but aren’t.
Later in the story, he instigates a fight with their trainer and gets him arrested (the immigration side plot), but that seems to be the only thing he actually accomplishes. The rest of the time, he just exists to be a sassy mean man.
For a book about horsewomen, you would expect more about the horse part right? Well, don’t get your hopes up. It’s mainly about the random uninteresting drama of the day – will the women get along? Will man villain try to thwart them today, by visiting to say mean words at them? Will they jump clear at their show? Can they name drop Bloomberg and Gates? Will you hear about their course in excruciating, painful detail? And it basically repeats that, up until they go to the Olympics.
It’s briefly mentioned that the main character liked riding when she was younger, but now she lacks motivation to be better. The whole time everyone keeps telling her she’s the best, and she doesn’t believe it. I think, at that level especially, you have to believe in yourself. This is a sport that requires confidence. But yet, despites her poor-me attitude, she ends up winning the individual gold medal at the Olympics. Truly the underdog wins the day over all those riders who have been training religiously for it.
The motivations of the characters don’t make sense. Sassy man-rider wants to be the rider for mom’s horse because it’s the best, but he ends up going to the Olympics on his own horse, the one he’s been riding this whole time, while plotting to ride mom’s horse. Clearly his own horse was pretty damn good, why does he need mom’s horse? Was it a replacement for his own really good horse? Was mom’s horse prettier or come with some cool accessories? Did he just want two horses, collecting them like beanie babies?
They have a barn that doesn’t seem to make any money, except with the showjumping wins. I don’t think that’s enough to finance what they are doing and their luxury lifestyle. How are they affording two Olympic campaigns while living in an extremely high cost of living area, with expensive horses, with an expensive lifestyle? I would like to know where to sign up for the job of being rich, as it seems that is their job.
There’s nothing about caring for the horses (because the grooms do it), or the logistics of owning and traveling with the horses, nothing about why they like horses, nothing about how they got into horses. These people have no backstory except, “We ride horses and we’re the best!”, and no motivation except to win. And sure, we all like winning, but there’s no explanation of why they even care. There’s so many sports they could be trying to win at, why did they choose horses?
They seem pretty disconnected to the actual world of horses. The main character has to tack up her own horse (she usually has a groom), and complains that her expensive CWD saddle is, “heavy as hell,” which is not how I’ve heard an English saddle described by any equestrian, ever, unless the rider was 70 years old and riddled with boneitis. Maybe CWD saddles are actually filled with lead? Is that the secret ingredient?
I find the story both unbelievable, and worse, boring. I can accept over the top situations and drama if it’s entertaining, but this book isn’t. It’s just not interesting, and it doesn’t showcase any of the reasons why I like horses. The horses might as well be mechanical for all the personality they have in this book. I’m pretty sure the writer of this book thought some sports statistics combined with some generic horse terms and descriptions would make horse lovers love this book – a formula which could have worked for nearly any racing sport: cars, motorcycles, dirt biking, etc. You could substitute terms from those sports instead of the horse terms, and the plot could be almost exactly the same (just swap Olympics for whatever big event is in racing).
If for some reason you still want to read this book, it’s available on Amazon. It actually has many good reviews, so it looks like my opinion might not be shared by many people. Maybe they saw something in it that I didn’t. Maybe their heart isn’t cold and black like mine.
If you read it, what do you think? Is it boring? Or are you part of the 60% that liked this book enough to give it five stars?