Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Last Cowboy by Lindsay McKenna

iconiconBeing a horse person and the proud owner of two rescue horses, I tend to gravitate toward books about horses.  Some of them, like War Horse, I enjoy thoroughly.  Others make it perfectly obvious how little the author knows about horses.

The Last Cowboy was, unfortunately, among the latter group.  Although the overall story, about a doctor who hires a handsome cowboy to train her and her mare for endurance racing, was a good one, there were a lot of clues in the book that the author was writing the horse stuff from research rather than experience.

First of all, the author clearly was rather misinformed about mustangs.  She seemed to think they were some kind of glorified horse breed, not to mention that a bunch of things were unique to them.  Mustangs are, actually, sort of like a feral pack of dogs (or multiple packs), mutts with lots of different breeds represented in them.  Although they are often touted as the descendants of Spanish Barb horses that the Conquistadors brought over from Spain, they are in fact mixed with lost and unwanted horses of virtually every breed.  Some herds show more Arabian influence, while others show the influence of other breeds.

Another thing that clearly demonstrated her lack of knowledge about horses: She repeatedly described the heroine's "steel-grey" mare, who sported a dorsal stripe and zebra stripes on her legs, as a grey.  If she were a horse person, she'd know that this coloring is actually called gruella.  A grey is a horse that is born dark and slowly turns white as they age.  Horse people call white horses "grey," not white.

She also seemed to think dorsal stripes and zebra stripes are unique to mustangs.  Not sure where she got that idea.

And it drove me nuts that she kept referring to the hero's 15-hand mustang stallion as "huge."  That may be on the large side for a mustang, but not for a horse in general.  That's really about the small side of average.  Most people's horses are 15.2hh and larger.  Furthermore, you don't struggle to mount a 15hh horse, especially if you are 5'6" (as the heroine was).  If the author thinks that's a struggle, I'd like to see her try to mount Tiny, the 17hh Thoroughbred at my barn!

I realize that most readers won't know this much about horses, and therefore won't have the same complaints I was.  But I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the story, too.  The author's rather terse narrative style made me feel rather removed from the story, especially from the intimate interactions between the hero and heroine.  In a good romance novel, the reader ought to feel the sparks fly.  Instead, the author would periodically lapse into descriptions of either the hero or the heroine's angst and attraction for one another.  This didn't help much to add to the romantic tension, because it was pretty much the same description every time, just reworded a little.  And it is decidedly unromantic to read five times throughout the story that the hero (or the heroine) wishes s/he could "make hot, passionate love" to him/her.  It felt corny and forced to me.

It's rare for me to say so, but I have to admit, this is NOT one of the titles I would recommend... to anyone, really.

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