Friday, March 6, 2015

Review: Making the Running

My first thought when I was asked to review this novel was that an equestrian romance novel likely wouldn't fit into the theme of this blog. Upon further thought, I realized that it would be entirely appropriate because I'm sure that most of us have, at least once, struggled to read through a horse-related novel riddled with so many errors that the author couldn't possibly be a horse person. Reviewing an equestrian-themed novel on a blog devoted to the intricacies of grooming seems like a pretty good way to screen out painfully inaccurate or pseudo- horse books.

Making the Running, written by Hannah Hooton, takes place in the world of jump racing. While the discipline is not something that most of us hunter/jumper riders take part in, we share a lot in common and it provides an exciting background to the human side of the story. Hooton's race descriptions are both enlightening and exciting, allowing the reader to feel as though they are anxiously watching from the sidelines alongside our protagonist Kate.

Kate Cresswell is a stable lass at Aspen Valley Racing Stables. She juggles her job and a dysfunctional family life, and things only get more complicated when she meets polar-opposite brothers Nicholas Borden, a preppy investment banker and his family's racing manager, and Ben de Jager, an amateur jump jockey with a mysterious past. Kate struggles to support her siblings while making tough choices about her horses and her love life, all in the lead-up to the famous Cheltenham Festival.

Making the Running is the fourth book in Hannah Hooton's Aspen Valley series, but it easily stands on its own as the main characters are new to the series. Having never read the previous novels, I had no trouble dropping into the Aspen Valley world, though I am sure that there are enough references to events and characters from the previous books to satisfy regular Hooton fans.  

As a horse person, it's a relief to come across a line on the very first page such as "his poor excuse for a forelock" because that is a description that only a true horse person would think to use. Despite being a romance novel, the horse world is depicted in a very real way, with no hesitation in having the equine characters slobber, head-butt and generally put themselves between the human characters. Given that there is no attempt to falsely paint every human character within the business as a devoted horse lover, Hooton has clearly been in the industry and understands the diverse cast of characters to be found.

Hooton creates characters full of depth, each with his or her own back story. The relationships between and setbacks suffered by all of the characters feel real; this is not your typical fairytale romance. Hooton deftly handles dark topics such as alcoholism without losing the light tone of the novel.

While some of the plot lines are somewhat predictable as can be expected in a romance novel, it's an enjoyable ride and Hooton even manages to sneak in a couple of surprises near the end. Although there are a couple of scenes with adult content, this book is much more about the emotional relationships between characters rather than the physical.

Overall, Making the Running is a fun, well-written book, with the reader's attention captured alternately by the fantastic race descriptions and duelling characters. It's available as an e-book (Kindle users click here), and for those wishing to start from the beginning, the first book in the Aspen Valley series, Keeping the Peace, is currently available for free in various formats through Hannah Hooton's website, where you can also learn more about her other books!

Disclosure: I have received no financial compensation for writing this review aside from a sample or copy of the product to be reviewed. My reviews are always my honest opinion and experience. Readers who use reviewed products do so at their own risk.


  1. Normally I try to avoid semi-equestrian related novels like the plague due to the authors lack of knowledge but I would consider picking this up if I felt a sudden urge for a romance novel.

    1. I feel the same way, Kyla, which is why I enjoyed getting the chance to review one!
      If you're concerned on the romance front, while romantic relationships do play a big part in the novel, it's really more about the main character's life as a whole at this point in time which happens to include some romantic relationships.