Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dressage Chronicles Book Two: A Matter of Feel

  "True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
what oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed."
Alexander Pope
Available from
This is part two of my review. Read part I too, if you like...

Alexander Pope, an 18th century poet, is known for his wit and his moral vision -- while "moral vision" is a heavy term to use for this fun novel,  I still think a Pope quote is the a good way to start a review of The Dressage Chronicles, Book Two. First and foremost, TDCB2 is a novel that will delight and resonate with dressage riders everywhere. Karen McGoldrick finds those shared experiences -- the struggles, the worry, the love, and the passion of horses -- and writes about them in a way that engages us. As Pope says, "What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed!" That's a good reason to love a book.

But for me, the best part of the novel is Lizzy.

The main character Lizzy is a remarkable person, er, character. It is a rare and wonderful thing to view people with a kind eye -- to look past the exterior of how people appear and try to understand their fears and motivations. Lizzy is an old soul in this regard, with a 21st century take on Pope's "moral vision." She has a strong sense of right and wrong, tempered by kindness. Even as the people in her life create difficulties for her, even as they are dismissive, and sometimes cruel, she gets annoyed, sure, but she also tries to understand them.  Her insights bring  depth to the story and our understanding of the characters. Her sense of humor and self-effacing style make it easy for us to relate to her.

And WHAT characters! The characters in the Dressage Chronicles are initially the recognizable stereotypes -- the rich owner, the dressage diva, the "star" working student, the ill-mannered but talented Grand Prix stallion, the famous but unscrupulous trainer. But as the story unfolds, we see they are real, and nuanced, and undefinable, just like real people (and horses) are. They have strengths and weaknesses and personal histories that we can only guess at. The characters surprise us.   That's good writing.

The story: Lizzy's saga continues
 I'm happy to report that in Book Two Lizzy is meeting interesting people and learning her sport. Her struggle with the walk pirouette is an education for me (file under things-to-remember-when-I-get-to-the-upper-levels). Lizzy gets a love interest -- such distractions!  And she sees first-hand the seedy side of upper level dressage competition.   There are several story lines that highlight different horses and characters. It's a treat to share Lizzy's world, from  farm life, to competition, to dating and romance, to learning to deal with challenging people.  In this second book of the series, there is a stronger element of mystery and suspense. It was good, because toward the end I could not put the book down. It was bad, because I skimmed one of the subplots that I was enjoying so I could find out how it all turned out.

  I might have read Book One because it is a novel about dressage, but I loved Books One and Two because I have so much fondness for the characters - the people and the horses -- and because I love a good mystery/crime storyline. I'm now hoping for Book Three, where we finally get to see Lizzy and Winsome on the journey to their goal.

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