Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Review: Keeping Secrets by Maggie Dana

When Maggie Dana contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me to do a review of her horse novel written for young girls, I didn't hesitate. Growing up, I gobbled up every horse book I could find. I still hold a soft sport for this particular type of book. So as far as I was concerned, reading a book like this gave me an excuse to return to my childhood. Also since it's Christmastime, I figured our readers might be interested in this book as a gift for a young girl.

Keeping Secrets (Book 1: Timber Ridge Riders)

Ages: 8-12

A valuable horse is dead, and it’s all her fault, which is why 14-year-old Kate McGregor has put horses and riding out of her life. Forever! But her new summer job as a companion to Holly Chapman, a former riding star who’s now confined to a wheelchair, takes her back to the barn where she’s forced to confront her guilt. 

Can Kate keep her terrible secret from Holly, who is fast becoming her best friend? And, more important, can she keep her secret from Angela Dean who lives for only two things: winning ribbons and causing trouble?

* * * *
I loved this book, and I plan to read the rest in the series. It's one of those rare books in which the characters stick with you long after you've finished the book. In fact, it's even inspired me to consider writing my own young adult horse series, an idea I've toyed with in the past.

I fell in love with the two main characters, Kate McGregor and Holly Chapman. Kate believes she is responsible for the death of a beloved horse. As a result, she cannot bear to be around horses. Holly survived a terrible accident in which her father was killed. She's been unable to walk since and is in a wheelchair. When Kate takes a summer job as Holly's companion, she never planned on the job including horses, but it does. Holly's mom is a riding instructor who is readying her team for a big competition. When one of the girls sustains an injury and can't ride, Kate finds herself taking her place. The villain of the story, Angela, pulls out all the stops to keep Kate from winning during the competition.

The ending left me wanting to read more about Holly and Kate. I immediately checked Amazon to see if the next book in the series was available. Sadly, it's not out yet.

This is a book about the healing love of horses and the developing friendship between two girls. If you have a pre-teen girl on your gift-buying list (or a horse lover who enjoys a trip back to her childhood), I strongly recommend Keeping Secrets.

* * * *

Maggie Dana's first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn't try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.
Born and raised in England, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline, where she divides her time between hanging out with the family's horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series. She also writes women's fiction and her first novel, Beachcombing, was published in 2009 by Macmillan, UK.
Visit her web site at


Maggie Dana said...


This is an awesome review and I can't thank you enough. I love what you said at the end ... that this is a story about the healing love of horses and friendship between two girls.

I'm working on Book 2, Racing into Trouble, and hope to have it ready for publication in late winter/early spring.


Alison said...

Thanks Jami for sharing a good horse book for teens that doesn't involve vampires and/or wild sex. (There aren't enough out there.)

Linda Benson said...

Thanks for posting this, Jami. It's always nice to meet other horse authors, and I love to hear about new horse books for kids. Hi Maggie! *waves* I'm adding this one to my TBR pile.

Maggie Dana said...


I loved SHADOW HORSE. I read it as an adult, and would've absolutely loved it as a kid. I devoured horse books when I was growing up (back in the Dark Ages), but they were thin on the ground. I read whatever I could get my hands on ... over and over again.


Maggie Dana said...

{{{Waving back}}} at Linda. Can't wait to read THE GIRL WHO REMEMBERED HORSES. Let's get together in January, once the holidays are over--a good time to sit by the fire and read about horses ... that is, until we have to out and muck stalls!