by Natalie Keller Reinert
This time last summer I was working in the mounted unit of the Parks Department. It was hot. It was scorching. It was an inferno.
And that was before I put my uniform on.
When I was a kid Tailored Sportsmans were the only thing a hunter rider could be seen in. My mother felt their polyester fibers and said "You will sweat to death in these. No way." She bought me cotton. And you know what? It took me twenty more years to get my Tailored Sportsmans (because believe it or not, the same company that makes Tailored Sportsmans also make riding breeches for police uniforms) and she was right. I did sweat to death in those.
So this summer I am spending riding-breeches-free, and I think if someone came up to me with a pair of polyester pants that velcro around my ankles I would laugh hysterically and possibly have some sort of fit. Because there is no way I'm going anywhere near a pair of Tailored Sportsmans, or any other kind of long pants, as long as the temperature is spiking above 90 here in New York.
Now, I know I'm from Florida, and I know I used to ride in the middle of the day even when it was ninety degrees with the humidity to match. But the other day I was walking down the street, and the heat was making me feel kind of light-headed, and I realized: I remember that feeling. From riding in the heat.
It's possible that every silly risk I've ever taken on horseback, thinking it was fun or fine or not that likely to kill or maim me, was actually a direct result of being delirious with heat stroke!
So give that some consideration.
Anyway, no horses for me during this on-going heat wave. What I am doing is reading. So much reading. In fact, I have three books here that I think you ought to read. Yes, all of you!
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton diSclafani.
My motto is, you can never have enough of a good thing, especially when the good thing is a coming-of-age novel set in a riding camp for privileged young Southern ladies during the Great Depression. I know, it's probably your motto too; it's not very original.
Yonahlossee Riding Camp is a special book, slow-burning, seductive, taking readers on a journey of self-discovery and self-affirmation with Thea, who has been sent away from her beloved home (and pony) for some unknown sin. Written by a life-long horsewoman (diSclafani rides dressage) this book is just bursting with equestrian details. You can read my interview with diSclafani and a review of the book at Dappled Grey.
Keeping the Peace, by Hannah Hooton.
A witty contemporary romance in the spirit of Bridget Jones' Diary, this book kept me absolutely captivated from beginning to end. Girl inherits horse, girl becomes secretary in National Hunt stable even though she knows nothing about horses, girl does up a cute cottage, you know, the usual romance novel!
That's what makes Keeping the Peace so special: the characters and the setting feel utterly unique. There's a sassy friend with a pretty colorful sex life and the language is the sort that most racetrackers would feel completely comfortable with.... let's say... oh let's use colorful again. There are wonderful, riveting racing scenes that make you wonder how anyone could have the courage to get involved in steeplechasing! This is a really fun book.
Miss Spencer Rides Astride, by Sydney Alexander.
I discovered this little Regency romance while I was looking for something else altogether, and couldn't resist the cute cover, Irish hunting yard setting, and the ninety-nine cent price!
Miss Spencer is a fun, witty little book with a tomboy young lady, a peer in disguise, a gypsy plot, and some altogether wonderful riding scenes. It's very sweet, without going overboard on the sex (Fifty Shades of Hay it is not) and I was completely in love with the dialogue and the elegant prose. I'm reading her second book, The Genuine Lady, now, and would you believe, it features a cowboy so afraid of falling in love he refuses to name his horses.
So those are my three horsey summer reads. What are you reading this summer? What should I be reading? Let me know in the comments, and then I'll make an Amazon list of all your suggestions!