The main character for both novels is Annemarie Zimmer. In Riding Lessons, she starts out as an 18-year-old equestrian who is an Olympic contender. Then she and her horse are in a horrific accident during a jumping event. It kills her horse and comes very close to paralyzing Annemarie. This all happens at the beginning of the book, and then it jumps forward 20 years. Annemarie has just lost her job, her husband has left her, she has a very difficult relationship with her teenage daughter, and then she finds out that her father has ALS. She and her daughter Eva move back home to help out. The novel is about her relationships with her family and a former, and now current, love interest. It’s also in a way about her relationship with Harry, the horse that died, and how she never got over that. He was known for his unusual coloring and she finds another horse that looks a lot like him and becomes convinced that he is Harry’s brother, who had died much more recently.
Flying Changes is a sequel that picks up a couple of months after Riding Lessons ended. Annemarie and Eva still have a conflictual relationship, and Annemarie is struggling to come to terms with Eva’s desire to be a competitive equestrian. She is also not fully content in her relationship, but this novel seems to be more about the mother-daughter relationship, even more so than Riding Lessons, I think.
I enjoyed both books. To be fair I was also very much into horses when I was younger and still get nostalgic about all of the horse-related fiction I used to read, and I do still like horses, which probably aided in my reading pleasure with these novels. Annemarie is a sympathetic character, though certainly a flawed one. I had more trouble relating to and sympathizing with Eva, who I tended to view as kind of a brat; with a few exceptions, I mentally sided with Annemarie when they fought. But then again, I never really went through a rebellious teen phase. I rounded my rating up a bit – I would give these books about 3.5 stars. They weren’t amazing, but they were good and they kept my attention, which is really all I ask for.