May Contain Spoilers
I always have the urge to read a horsey book right before a horse show. I kept seeing the Timber Ridge Riders series on Amazon, and wanted to check it out, so when I had the chance to do just that, I jumped at it. I don’t ride hunt seat, so I always find depictions of hunter shows interesting. The horse care details were spot on, and nothing made me cringe due to inaccuracies. I’ll tell you what did make me cringe: the behavior of Kate’s rival, Angela. What a spoiled, selfish girl! If I was her coach, she would have been booted from my barn. Her casual treatment of the animals and her teammates had me boiling mad!
Keeping Secrets is a middle grade book, but it will appeal to horse enthusiasts of all ages. I felt so awful for protagonist Kate. She has spent the last six months blaming herself for the death of a horse at her old barn. A convenient scape goat, she was kicked out, banished for allowing the horse to escape from his stall, get into the feed room, and colic. What a crappy thing to do to a 14 year old girl. The old trainer earned zero respect from me, and poor Kate, heartbroken over the loss of her favorite horse, decided that horses would no longer play a part in her life. Kate’s disinterested father didn’t help her with her grief. The guy, a professor, was never home, and he probably didn’t even know about the horrible experience Kate was struggling to deal with. Instead, he traipsed around the planet research butterflies.
With her father on a trip, she’s moved in with her aunt. Kate wants a job, so when she hears about a babysitting job, she applies for it. Her charge is actually her own age, and Holly has been confined to a wheelchair after an auto accident. Kate’s job is to be her companion for the summer, so her mom can continue coaching riders at the barn behind their small house. Barn? Yes, barn! So even though Kate wants nothing to do with horses, she is stuck having to deal with them every day. Holly’s dream is to get back in the saddle again, and she drags Kate to the barn every day. To hide her new discomfort around the animals, Kate lies and tells Holly that she’s terrified of them, and, oh, yeah, she’s allergic, too. When her secret is outted, she has to earn back Holly’s trust, as well as help save Holly’s mom’s job.
This is a very fast paced read, and I couldn’t put it down. Once Kate gets back in the saddle, things accelerate even more. She has to help win a team competition, but guess what? Angela is out to get her, because Kate rides better than she does, so Kate has to learn quickly to avoid Angela’s attempts to sabotage her. I loved all of the conflict Angela started. She’s the perfect girl you love to hate, but because her mother demands constant perfection from her, you feel a smidge, just a smidge!, of pity for her. She’s afraid that Kate will show her up in front of her mother, and all her mother cares about is that Angela is the best. Her mother also has a lot of control over whether or not Holly’s mother will keep her job, it turns out, so there’s even greater friction between the girls. Add in the fact that Angela is a bully and likes to pick on what she considers weaker girls, and you really have the perfect villain.
I enjoyed Keeping Secrets, and I’m looking forward to more adventures with Kate and Holly. I’m sure that Angela will continue to make trouble for the girls, making for more entertaining reading.
Grade: B/B+ (I love the cover – that gets an A)
Review copy provided by publisher
A valuable horse is dead, and it’s all her fault, which is why 14-year-old Kate McGregor has banished horses and riding from her life … forever!
But her new summer job as a companion to Holly Chapman, a former riding star who’s now confined to a wheelchair, takes her back to the barn—the last place Kate wants to be.
Can Kate keep her terrible secret from Holly, who is fast becoming her best friend? And, more important, can she keep her secret from Angela Dean, a teenage bully who lives for only two things: winning ribbons and causing trouble?
Kate manages to keep her secret hidden until an accident forces it into the open … and it’s just the moment Angela has been waiting for.