If you have ever been amazed by the skills and style of showjumping horses, this novel is one that will appeal instantly. At the centre of Heart of the Valley, Cathryn Hein’s latest book, is Brooke Kingston, only daughter of a racehorse stable dynasty, and completely devoted to showjumping. Her horses Poseidon, Odysseus and Sisyphus are her life and love, and she cares for them on the family’s farm in the NSW Hunter Valley. But after one showjumping event, Brooke has a terrible accident while towing her three beloved horses and not all of them survive.
Shattered in heart and spirit, she finds she is unable to return to running the farm, particularly as a big part of her job is to ferry racehorses from the stables at Randwick up to the Hunter Valley, and she is paralysed by fear at the thought of towing horses ever again. So the family has to turn to outside help, in the form of Lachlan Cambridge who is hired as manager of the farm. What’s worse is that Brooke’s brother Mark has told her that he has received offers to buy the property and she may never be able to live there again. So when Lachlan moves into Brooke’s cottage she is determined not to make friends. Besides, she has sufficient friendship with her two best mates Andrew and Chloe, and the small town community where she lives.
But fate, as usual, has other ideas. Brooke’s horses are first to defect, becoming friends with Lachlan, and then her best friend Chloe decides to make a move on him. To complicate things, Lachlan seems to have a knack for calming animals, and actually manages to convince Brooke to take faltering steps towards overcoming her psychological block against towing the horse float. Together it seems that Lachlan and the horses can tame Brooke, until Poseidon becomes terribly ill, while at the same time Lachlan has to return to his own family’s property. Brooke finds that she has come to depend on Lachlan, and without him she needs to relearn her self-sufficiency – and in so doing, can she regain her confidence?
While there aren’t any surprises in the novel, it does make for a pleasant and charming read, with enough detail of the small town community as well as the show jumping world to satisfy anyone.
Available now: Penguin RRP$29.95