Thursday, December 19, 2013

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally (Hundred Oaks book 4)

"They're from two different worlds."

Seventeen year old Savannah Barrow had to leave her home in Charles Town, West Virginia two days before the start of her senior year of high school. Her father got the job as head groom at Cedar Hill Farms in Franklin, Tennessee. The farm has trained horses that have raced in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup. She will be starting school at Hundred Oaks High but hopes to get a job as an exercise trainer at the farm. Walking back to the staff quarters, Savannah hears an alarm and sees a runaway horse barreling towards her with two guys on horseback chasing him. She runs to the horse as it heads her way and yells "Stop!" He runs past and she goes in pursuit. The horse circles back to see her and she holds up her hand. He charges her but she is able to grab his bridle and soon has him under control. Savannah has a way with horses, almost like a horse whisperer. She sees that the horse is named Tennessee Star and seems to have thrown his rider. The horse is a beautiful thoroughbred and she soon sees the owner's son riding towards them. Savannah has been warned that the Goodwin family is extremely private and the owner's son Jack, whom she hasn't met yet, is her age. He also has a reputation. The staff has told her that his bedroom has a revolving door. They will be attending the same school. She notices that Jack is cover model beautiful. He thanks her for catching his horse. He is impressed by her and comments on her ability and knowledge of horses.

Jack wrongly assumes that Savannah is there to tour the farm. No but then he assumes she is a guest of the family. She tells him that they haven't met. He introduces himself but she tells him she needs to get back to the house. He offers to escort her but ends up chasing after her. They begin to talk about why Star bolted. Jack is a bit conceited and Savannah calls him on it before she can stop herself. He asks again who she is and why she is there. Before she can tell him the truth, Mr. Goodwin comes up to ask why Jack is avoiding talking to Abby Winchester. She won't quit calling the house. He sees Savannah and asks if she is Danny Barrow's kid. Yes I am and Jack is surprised that he has been trying to hit on the new groom's daughter. Mr. Goodwin drags Jack away. He doesn’t seem happy.

Savannah goes to Gael, the lead trainer, to see about getting an interview as an exercise rider. After talking a bit, Gael quickly realizes that Savannah knows horses but unfortunately he doesn't make the hiring decisions. She is surprised when Jack Goodwin walks up and says that it is his job to decide who gets hired. Gael tells the Barrows that Mr. Goodwin is letting Jack run the farm during his senior year of high school. It is his way of preparing him for the future. Savannah asks for a chance to prove herself and Jack asks for her qualifications. She has been riding since the age of four, exercised horses in Charles Town and caught Star for him earlier. If she really wants the job, he wants to see her ride Star. Gael and her father object. The horse throws all of his riders. Jack says that she can ride a horse named Minerva instead but he reserves the right to see her ride Star before he makes his decision.

Savannah proves her stuff on the track with Minerva. Gael is ready to hire her to start on Monday, but Jack says no. She is disappointed until Jack says that he wants her to go with him to Cincinnati the next day to warm Star up before his race. Her father isn't happy but Jack thinks she is just what the horse needs. Mr. Goodwin comes along to check on what is happening. Jack fills him in on the situation and his father also objects. Jack states his case for Savannah and his father relents. It is obvious he doesn't like the interest his son is showing in the hired help.

At the race the next day, Savannah gives Star his best warm-up ever. Jack and his father are excited about his chances. As soon as the jockey mounts Star and heads for the starting gate, the horse gets spooked. He starts last but does make up time during the race but not enough to place. Jack is deeply disappointed. Abby Winchester comes running up to give Jack a hug. This time he cannot ignore her like he wants to. Savannah vows to figure out what is spooking the horse. That night at the farm, she is down at the field watching Star graze. She is continuing to build her relationship with the horse. Suddenly, Star gets spooked as Jack and his dogs come up to the fence. Savannah would hate to have to tell Jack that his horse doesn't like him. They secure the horses for the night and discuss Star. Savannah finally asks him if she got the job. He replies yes, wasn't it obvious? Excited, she throws her arms around his neck. Realizing what she has done, she steps back but Jack gently pushes her up against the fence. She stops him before he can kiss her. She cannot get involved with the owner. He understands and asks that she not tell his father.

Savannah has made friends with one of the stable boys, Rory Whitfield. Rory is Will's (from Stealing Parker) little brother and also a senior at Hundred Oaks. He has taken Savannah on a tour of the town and to a field party. He has told her that he wants to be a screenwriter and doesn't want to be stuck on the family farm which continues to lose money. Neither are interested in each other. Rory jokes with Savannah's short stature; he would break his neck trying to kiss her. The two quickly become friends. Rory even drives her to school the first day and briefly shows her around. She goes to her first class and sees Vanessa; a friend of Rory's that she met at the party. They are talking when Jack Goodwin walks in. Every girl is trying to get his attention but he heads straight for Savannah and sits down. He tells her what a great job she is doing with Star. Then he asks her when she and Whitfield got together. He saw that he drove her to school this morning. Rory walks into to class just then and Savannah tells him what Jack just said. He laughs and says that she fell asleep Saturday night and snored like a troll. Jack slides closer and starts to turn on the charm.

Can Savannah figure out why Star gets spooked? Will the horse ever do well in a race? Can Jack prove to his father that he has what it takes to run the farm? Will Savannah be able to keep from falling under Jack's spell and becoming another notch on his bedpost or is Jack really not the player everyone believes him to be? What happens when Savannah breaks all of her rules and plays with fire?

Once again, fans of the Hundred Oaks series get another glimpse into the future lives of some of their favorite characters.

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