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Appaloosa Summer

Appaloosa Summer, June 2014
Island Trilogy #1
by Tudor Robins

Author Self-Published
Featuring: Jared; Slate; Meg Traherne
192 pages
ISBN: 0993683711
EAN: 9780993683701
Kindle: B00L047CXI
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"How can a spotted mare change a life?"

Fresh Fiction Review

Appaloosa Summer
Tudor Robins

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted August 7, 2014

Young Adult Sports | Young Adult Contemporary

Meg Traherne has a summer of competing in shows on her horse to look forward to, but in a heart-stopping moment that changes. Left adrift, she falls back on her good friend Slate. Slate however will have to sell her horse when she goes to university, and she's tired of weariness, sweat and dirt, of broken fingernails and hat hair. Maybe it's time they both did something different.

APPALOOSA SUMMER is set in Ottawa, where Meg now self- reliantly accepts a B&B job on an island off the town of Kingston as she can stay alone in her family's holiday cottage. She's sixteen and looking forward to earning her own money. Nobody notices when she dares to drive a few blocks by herself - there's no permanent police on the island - and she observes that the rugged, tractor-driving country lads up here are fine viewing. Jared, in particular. Then she helps Jared with cattle on her day off, and her pay turns out to be a mare someone's tired of keeping. Meg can't believe people give away horses. On the other hand, Salem is an Appaloosa, and she knows judges don't like spotted horses in the show ring.

Salem turns out to have quite a few tricks up her sleeve, and the little black mare with the spotted blanket on her rump impresses even the unwilling Meg. Now what can they get up to together? With summer storms, plenty of hard work and friendship, and helping other people instead of moping about her own life, Meg becomes a different person by the end of the APPALOOSA SUMMER. Tudor Robins has planned two more books to make up the Island Trilogy and if they are anything like as good, with as much attention to detail as the horse training and riding detail in this first story, they're books I definitely want to read. Young adults who like horses are in for an absolute treat.

Learn more about Appaloosa Summer

SUMMARY

Sixteen-year-old Meg Traherne has never known loss. Until the beautiful, talented horse she trained herself, drops dead underneath her in the show ring. Jared Strickland has been living with loss ever since his father died in a tragic farming accident.

Meg escapes from her grief by changing everything about her life; moving away from home to spend her summer living on an island in the St. Lawrence River, scrubbing toilets and waiting on guests at a B&B.

Once there, she meets Jared; doing his best to keep anything else in his life from changing.

When Jared offers Meg a scruffy appaloosa mare out of a friend's back field, it's the beginning of a journey that will change both of them by summer's end.

Excerpt

Chapter One

I’m staring down a line of jumps that should scare my brand- new show breeches right off me.

But it doesn’t. Major and I know our jobs here. His is to read the combination, determine the perfect take-off spot, and adjust his stride accordingly. Mine is to stay out of his way, and let him jump.

We hit the first jump just right. He clears it with an effortless arc, and all I have to do is go through my mental checklist. Heels down. Back straight. Follow his mouth.

“Good boy, Major.” One ear flicks halfway back to acknowledge my comment, but not enough to make him lose focus. A strong, easy stride to jump two, and he’s up, working for both of us, holding me perfectly balanced as we fly through the air.

He lands with extra momentum; normal at the end of a long, straight line. He self-corrects, shifting his weight back over his hocks. Next will come the surge from his muscled hind end; powering us both up, and over, the final tall vertical.

It doesn’t come, though. How can it not? “Come on!” I cluck, scuff my heels along his side. No response from my rock solid jumper.

The rails are right in front of us, but I have no horsepower — nothing — under me. By the time I think of going for my stick, it’s too late. We slam into several closely spaced rails topping a solid gate. Oh God. Oh no. Be ready, be ready, be ready. But how? There’s no good way. There are poles everywhere, and leather tangling, and dirt. In my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth.

There’s no sound from my horse. Is he as winded as me? I can’t speak, or yell, or scream. Major? Is that him on my leg? Is that why it’s numb? People come, kneel around me. I can’t see past them. I can’t sit up. My ears rush and my head spins. I’m going to throw up. “I’m going to …”

I flush the toilet. Swish out my mouth. Avoid looking in the mirror. Light hurts, my reflection hurts, everything hurts at this point in the afternoon, when the headache builds to its peak.

Why me?

I’ve never lost anybody close to me. My grandpa died before I was born, and my widowed grandma’s still going strong at ninety- four. She has an eighty-nine-year-old boyfriend. They go to the racetrack; play the slots.

If I had to predict who would die first in my life, I would never, in a million years, have guessed it would be my fit, strong, seven- year-old thoroughbred.

Never.

But he did.

Thinking about it just sharpens the headache, so I press a towel against my face, blink into the soft fluffiness.

“Are you OK?” Slate’s voice comes through the door. With my mom and dad at work, Slate’s been the one to spend the last three days distracting me when I’m awake, and waking me up whenever I get into a sound sleep. Or that’s what it feels like.

“Fine.” I push the bathroom door open.

“Puke?”

I nod. Stupid move. It hurts. Whisper instead. “Yes.”

“Well, that’s a big improvement. Just the once today.”

She follows me back to my room. She’s not a pillow-plumper or quilt- smoother — I have to struggle into my rumpled bed — but it’s nice to have her around. “I’m glad you’re here, Slatey.” I sniffle, and taste salt in the back of my throat.

I’m close to tears all the time these days. “Normal,” the doctor said. Apparently tears aren’t unreasonable after suffering a knock to the head hard enough to split my helmet in two, with my horse dropping stone cold dead underneath me in the show ring. I’m still sick of crying, though. And puking, too.

“Don’t be stupid, Meg; being here is heaven. My mom and Agate are going completely over the top organizing Aggie’s sweet sixteen. There are party planning boards everywhere, and her dance friends are always over giggling about it too.”

“Just as long as it’s not about me. I don’t want to owe you.”

“‘Course not; you’re not that great of a best friend.”

The way I know I’ve fallen asleep again, is that Slate is shaking me awake. Again.

“Huh?” I open one eye. Squinting. The sunlight doesn’t hurt. In fact, it feels kind of nice. I open both eyes.

“Craig’s here.”

I struggle to get my elbows under me, and the shot of pain to my head tells me I’ve moved too fast.

“Craig?”

She’s nodding, eyes wide.

“Like our Craig?”

“Uh-huh.”

First my mom canceled her business trip scheduled for the day after the accident; now our eighty-dollar-an-hour, Level Three riding coach is at my house. “Are you sure I’m not dying, and you just haven’t told me?”

“I was wondering the same thing.”

“What am I wearing?” I blink at cropped yoga pants and a t- shirt I got in a 10K race pack. It doesn’t really matter — I’ve never seen Craig when I’m not wearing breeches and boots; never seen, or even imagined him in the city — changing clothes is hardly going to make a difference.

Slate leads the way down the stairs, through the hallway and into the kitchen, where Craig’s shifting from foot to foot, reading the calendar on the fridge. He must be bored if he wants the details of my dad’s Open Houses, my mom’s travel itinerary.

“Smoking,” Slate whispers just before Craig turns to me. And, technically, she’s right. His eyes are just the right shade of emerald, surrounded by lashes long enough to be appealing, while stopping short of girly. His cheekbones are high and pronounced, just like his jawbone. And his broad, tan shoulders, and the narrow hips holding up his broken-in jeans are the natural trademarks of somebody who works hard — mostly outside — for a living.

But he’s our riding coach. Craig, and our fifty-five year old obese vice-principal (with halitosis), are the two men in the world Slate won’t flirt with. I don’t flirt with him, mostly because I’ve never met a guy I like more than my horse. Major …

“Hey Meg.” Craig’s quiet voice is a first. The gentle hug. He steps back, eyes searching my head. “Do you have a bump?”

I take a deep breath and throw my shoulders back. “Nope.” Knock my knuckles on my temple. “All the damage is internal.”

Craig’s brow furrows. “Meg, you can tell me how you really feel.” No I can’t. Of course I can’t. Even if I could explain the emptiness of losing my three-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week companion, the guilt at “saving” him from the racetrack only to kill him in the jumper ring, and the take-it-or-leave-it feeling I have about showing again, none of that is conversation for a sunny springtime afternoon.

Still, I can offer a bit of show and tell. “I have tonnes of bruises. And I’ve puked every day so far. And, this is weird but, look.” I use my index finger to push my earlobe forward. “My earring caught on something and tore right through.”

The colour drains from Craig’s face, and now I think he might puke.

“Meg!” Slate pokes me in the back. “Sit down with Craig and I’ll make tea.”

Craig pulls something out of his pocket, places it on the table. A brass plate reading “Major”. The one from his stall door. “We have the rest of his things in the tack room. We put them all together for you.”

Yeah, because you wanted to rent out the stall. I can’t blame him. There’s a massive waiting list to train with Craig. And my horse had the consideration to die right at the beginning of the show season. Some new boarder had her summer dream come true.

I reach out; turn the plaque around to face me. Craig’s trained me too well — tears in one of his lessons result in a dismissal from the ring — so now, even with a concussion, I can’t cry in front of him. Deep breath. I rub my thumb over the engraved letters M-A-J-O- R. “There was nothing that horse couldn’t do.”

Craig sighs. “You’re right. He was one in a million. Have you thought about replacing him?”


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