This is a dual review, starting with the novella ‘The Sport of Baronets’, the first part of Romancing the Turf series. The series is based on horse racing, and the people who live in that world, specifically the Crosbys and the Chandlers. The two families have been feuding as long as they can remember, for reasons that have largely been forgotten over time. As this novella begins, the Crosby family fortunes have taken a downturn and hopes are pinned on the colt Golden Barb to win the upcoming race at Newmarket.
Sir Bartlett Crosby is the heir apparent, and the man in charge of the colt. He desperately wants to win the race, but out of the blue Hannah Chandler shows up to claim the colt as part of an old agreement between her father and Bart’s mother. They bicker about the situation, recognizing a certain attraction between them, but this comes to a halt when one of the grooms is knocked out, and colt and jockey are nowhere to be found. Obviously something is afoot, and they have to work together to discover what happened.
As a novella, the romance moves along rather quickly, but it was a good read. The insight into the horse racing of the day is well done. Like a Romeo and Juliet story, the feuding families need to come together to celebrate the new couple.
The first full book in the series is ‘A Gentleman’s Game’, and this one features Nathaniel Chandler, brother to Hannah. He is considered to be rather irresponsible by his father, good enough to travel the country side to buy and sell horses, but nothing else. On his return home from one of these trips, he renews an acquaintance with Rosalind Agate, his father’s secretary. She is intelligent and competent, and somehow more appealing than he remembers. Also on his return, there are also a few horses sick with colic for reasons unknown, which is a problem with the upcoming Derby. Together, he and Rosalind attempt to discover the reasons behind the illness, even though she has a suspicious feeling about what is going on.
Rosalind isn’t just a secretary, she’s a spy for her Aunt Annie. As a youngster, Rosalind was badly burned and thanks to the financial aid of Annie, she was able to recover from this. In return, Annie expects a certain loyalty, and directs Rosalind to search out some documents for her. To this end, Rosalind suspects that Annie may be behind the mysterious illnesses, though she can’t prove it. Eventually the horses recover and Nathanial is able to take them on the journey to the race, so long as Rosalind is part of the journey to report back to his father.
Most of the rest of the book is focused on the trip to the race, and the subsequent romance that develops between Nathanial and Rosalind. They are both characters that are engaging and trying to find their way in the world. Nathanial is sweet and charming, wearing his heart on his sleeve for Rosalind. He is also very competent and organized in his own way, able to take care of the problems that arise along the way.
Rosalind wants to break away from Aunt Annie’s hold over her, and hopes to win enough cash at the race to pay her debt. There’s a sweet reunion with her family that she’s been distanced from for several years, and she finally realizes that she can stand up to Annie and live without the threat over her head. There’s a slight misunderstanding between Nathanial and herself, but it’s quickly resolved and the story moves on to the ending.
I enjoyed two stories, and the background of horse racing was interesting. The love story was sweet with the way Rosalind and Nathanial were able to find each other. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.