Tag Archives: Jilly Cooper

My Top 5 Favourite Horse Stories

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I’ve just begun writing my next rural romance which features a heroine determined to resurrect the long-defunct local hunt club’s point to point race, albeit with a twist that not everyone approves of.

To help put me in the mood, I’m reading a history of the Mount Gambier Hunt Club, of which I was a once a member. All the adventurous tales and amusing anecdotes, including those of my great-grandfather Lou Hein, grandfather Lloyd aka “Torchy”, and uncle Clarrie, who were also members, got me thinking about my favourite horse books.

So here they are!

1/. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion by Walter FarleyI cannot express how passionately I felt as a child about this story of a boy called Alec Ramsay and a stallion simply called the Black, who find themselves washed up on a barren island after a storm wrecks the ship on which they were travelling. Slowly the pair form an unbreakable bond. When they finally make it home, it’s discovered that the Black is one super-fast horse. Soon, he’s pitted against the best in the land in a race that will have you turning those pages at a gallop. Gawd, I get teary just thinking about it.

Seriously, if it was in any way possible, I would have married this book. I loved it and the entire Black Stallion series that much. I also wonder if this was the book that made me want to be a writer. The daydreams I had over it! Certainly it has a very special place in my reading heart.

2/. Riders by Jilly Cooper

Riders by Jilly Cooper. Ah, how can one go past the absolute naughty deliciousness that is Rupert Campbell-Black, Cooper’s much-adored equestrian star and complete bounder? While the story is actually more about Jake Lovell, and his rise in the professional showjumping world, it’s his arch-rival Rupert who looms large. Rupert is truly awful sometimes, but he’s brave, smart, funny, unapologetic, deeply loyal to his friend Billy, and fabulous in bed, and we can’t help but forgive him.

What’s great about this story is that there are more like it, including Rivals, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. Given Cooper writes lovely big fat books, that means hours and hours of reading delight. Wheee!

I always imagined myself writing bonkbusters like this and it was a huge shock to discover my stories turned out nothing like Cooper’s. Ah, well…

3/. French Relations by Fiona Walker

French Relations by Fiona WalkerFrench Relations and its follow-up Well Groomed are very much in the vein of Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles. There’s lots of posh carrying-on and plenty of laughs, plus lashings of lovely romance. French Relations begins with Tash French heading to her eccentric mother’s Loire chateau for a summer break. On arrival she finds Alexandra has bought her a wholly unsuitable, half-mad stallion to ride. When sexy eventer and Tash’s devastating teenage crush Hugo Beauchamp turns up, he’s conned into giving Tash lessons. But there is more than one eligible male in the chateau, taking Tash’s love life on a rather twisted journey.

Ignore the horrid cover (the original was far better), this is great, addictive fun!

4/. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'HaraLike The Black Stallion, O’Hara’s trilogy had me enchanted as a child. Wyoming sounded like a kind of horse heaven and I wanted to visit so badly.

Once more, this is about love and trust between a boy and his horse. Both of whom kind of end up saving one another.

It’s a beautiful tale and a guaranteed heart-warmer. But if I recall correctly, I think it was the second book in the series, Thunderhead, that I liked most.

 

 

5/. The Man From Snowy River by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson

The Man From Snowy River by AB Banjo Paterson. There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away,

And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

Reading or hearing that never fails to send a shiver down my spine, and when discussing horse stories it would be impossible not to include this classic Australian poem. It’s exciting and romantic, set in an iconic location, and features a brave hero and his “small and weedy beast” of a mountain-bred horse, both of whom prove their merits in spectacular fashion. Nothing like an underdog to stir an Aussie heart!

The language is wonderful. The rhythm of Paterson’s poem draws us in and sweeps us along, and it’s hard not to get teary over the drama of it all. A must read.

 

If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Black Beauty, it’s because I never really warmed to that book. I also haven’t included The Silver Brumby because, somehow, I never discovered it. How that tragedy occurred is one of the great mysteries of my life. Equine-obsessed me miss a horse book? Impossible! Yet somehow it happened.

Do you have a favourite horse story or movie? I’d love to hear about it. A horsey girl can never have too many equine tales!

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: The Thrill of Discovery

Every month on the Australian Romance Readers Association email loop, members share what they’ve read over the previous month. I love this. There’s something really fun about seeing what others are reading, in the same way perusing another person’s bookshelves provides nosy joy. All those attention-grabbing covers and new authors. Stories to passionately dissect and discuss. The delight in finding common interest.

Just this morning, a member mentioned she’d been loaned two of Jilly Cooper’s early novels, Riders and Rivals. The idea that she was enjoying these books for the first time gave me a twinge of envy. Imagine experiencing that wonderful feeling of discovery again. The thrill of meeting unforgettable characters like Rupert Campbell-Black and Billy Lloyd-Foxe and delighting in all their mischief, then finding that there are more wonderful reads to come, thanks to Cooper’s extensive backlist.

Discovering a new author is such a rush. Last week, book blogger Bree, from 1 Girl, 2 Many Books, convinced me to try a Susanna Kearsley and I’m so grateful she did. I was hooked from about half way down the first page of The Shadowy Horses. Now I’m feeling smug because I know there are a whole lot more Kearsleys I’ll be able to relish in over coming months. I’ve heard romance readers talk about Georgette Heyer in the same way – how they can still remember their first taste of her genius the same way as they can their first kiss. I suspect there are a lot of readers who experienced a similar rush with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or upon reading any number of the classics or works of our literary and commercial fiction giants. Though it was a very long time ago, I can still recall the absolute squirmy breathless excitement that Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion provided. Amazing how the feeling lingers, even after so many years. But that’s the power of stories.

Which author has left you with that special buzz? The author that makes you wish you could read them for the first time again? I would love to re-experience Paullina Simon’s Tully. That book, with its difficult-to-like-heroine, still astonishes me whenever I return to it. Still, it’d be hard to go past Jilly Cooper’s Riders and Rupert’s delicious upper-class naughtiness. But then I always was a sucker for anything with horses!

Mysty and me 1.0