ruffian

60 seconds out of the starting gate, Jockey Syd Paul is riding for her life. Blindsided, she’s attacked during a race by a fellow jockey and friend. Forced to fight for her life atop a fast and furious thousand pound horse galloping at top speed, Syd struggles, fighting in disbelief, while only inches away, the other jockey falls to his death. Shocked and battered and without a moment to think, she turns from the nightmare behind her toward the finish line just ahead, and wins the race.
Bloodied and beaten into a bruised lump of flesh, Syd finds herself dazed and standing in the winner’s circle, flashing back at what just happened. WTF, she thinks, watching the instant replay unfold like bad reality tv. From the video replay, there’s no question. Syd looks guilty as the gates burst open just like a hundred times before. Only this time, Syd battled another jockey to the death and then went on to win.
Bleeding and head swimming, the single question remains: Why did my friend attack me? She finds a shocking truth: Some unidentified person will go to any length to control the jockeys and the outcome of certain races. One jockey has died and others will follow. Syd is forced to accept help from police detective, Joe McQueen. He’s drop dead gorgeous with the tenacity of a pit bull and the sensibility of a good ol’ boy.
Unsure of placing her life and her future into the hands of a complete stranger, (McQueen), Syd sets out to find the answers and keep herself safe, knowing she’s only one golden ticket away from her dream of riding in the Kentucky Derby, but in the next race, she’ll be riding not only for her career, but also, for her life.

 

Thanks to Word Slinger for gifting me this book for review!

I found the plot of this book wonderfully refreshing. Not many stories are written with a racing background (unless you are a Dick Francis fan), much less with a female jockey in the main role. Syd Paul is a feisty girl, making her way among the misogynistic jockeys at the track. She is a talented rider, hoping to find a mount to get her into the Kentucky Derby.

When her good friend attacks her during a race, she is thrown into a race fixing scheme that threatens her very existence. Syd is a loner by nature and is mistrustful of most people, except for a handful of friends. Her best friend convinces her to go to the police, but they don’t seem to be much help. She gets attacked again, and doesn’t know why she can’t get anyone to believe that she is danger.

I enjoyed the book, despite the writing being a bit uneven. Perhaps it was the editing, but it pulled me out of the story when I would see odd words capitalized (Owner, Jockey) and the occasional typo here and there. I also wanted to shake the character of Syd a few times, when she persisted in going places alone and putting herself in danger. ( I suppose that was needed, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a story.)

The same thing that bugged me about her was also her strength: a female jockey who didn’t want to sit on the sidelines while the men took care of business was an excellent choice of main character. Competition is¬†intense in racing, and Syd showed her mettle by holding her own against the guys. She refused to give in to emotion, always keeping her goal firmly in her sights. At times this was also a noticeable quirk – Syd seemed to vacillate at times between grief and being perfectly fine (after the death of someone close to her). I kept thinking that it was very strange for her to be so happy just a few minutes after having tears in her eyes and talking about how much she missed her friend. Personally, if that was me, I would have been home crying and being miserable, not out flirting and going to restaurants.

But that is a small criticism. I’m sure anything she did was to advance the plot, which was quite suspenseful. I wasn’t sure who the bad guys were, and all in all, the idea of race fixing was quite plausible. Many people believe horse racing is fixed in some way, but never think of the people that may be caught up in it without their consent.

The race descriptions and personalities (and names) of the horses left me in thrall – I love horses and felt as if I were behind the scenes at a large track. Syd’s skill as a jockey was also a plus; she always raced to win and never compromised who she was.

My verdict? A good story, well rounded characters, and some suspense. Definitely an enjoyable and unique read that horse racing fans (and mystery lovers) will enjoy. You can pick up your copy¬†[easyazon_link identifier=”B01AB3A69U” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].