In honor of it being National Novel Writing Month (which I have failed at many many years in a row), and because the third book will be out soon, I thought it would be the perfect time to whip out some quick thoughts on The Dressage Chronicles by Karen McGoldrick.
I may be alone (though I really suspect I’m not) but there have been moments in the years since graduating college that I day dreamed about leaving my normal life behind and finding a working student position with a top trainer to really improve my riding. Of course, as we all know, being a working student isn’t all the glamorous and involves many hours of hard work. And that’s what our main character, Lizzy, soon discovers as well.
Lizzy is the perfect stand in for us adult amateurs. She has talent (and got lucky with finding a super horse) but has never had the time or the money to really advance in the dressage world which is why she is so excited and nervous for her new gig as a working student with one of the top dressage trainers on the Florida winter circuit. With Lizzy, we get to experience the hard work but also the wonderful rewards of working your butt off for a dream.
McGoldrick’s cast of characters are also not as one dimensional as they seem at first. There’s the dressage diva, the living on a shoe string budget eventer wanting to make it big, and the older woman who now has the money to spend but doesn’t have the feel it requires, but somehow I didn’t walk away feeling like I had just read a bunch of stereotypes. Each of these characters wants something and they get fleshed out to different degrees.
There isn’t really a big over arching plot to The Dressage Chronicles but I don’t think that hurts the book any. In fact, I liked this book because it felt real. It felt like I could go find this farm and this trainer. The day to day (or rather show to show) plot lines actually made it feel like my own riding career.
I have to admit that when I started reading this book for the second time, I had pretty much forgotten what it was about. Not because it was a bad book by any means, but because it fell into some of the classic second book problems. Meaning, it was a fun book but it didn’t have the same sort of drive as the first.
In A Matter of Feel, we pick off almost exactly where The Dressage Chronicles ends. McGoldrick reintroduces us to the key players and quickly brings in some fun new ones like Deb, the farm’s breeding manager and resident young horse trainer. You also meet some not so wonderful characters like Patrick. And some characters you think you aren’t going to like, end up turning right around and being awesome.
McGoldrick does fall back on a couple of key plot points from the first book, such as the romance that can’t last beyond the final page, and the final climax is a bit predictable but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this book. The author without a doubt knows the dressage world intimately and does a wonderful job taking you to each show along with her characters.
To sum up, if you haven’t read The Dressage Chronicles, and you like equestrian fiction, I recommend you give these a shot. They are fun stories with realistic characters and horses (though at times maybe slightly unrealistic plots with a little wish fulfillment). I really believe that McGoldrick hit the right note between horse/dressage lingo and having a book that doesn’t rely on you knowing the ins and outs of the dressage world.
I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!
Coming Soon, book III: The Right Girl for the Job