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The Winner's Circle
by Leigh Greenwood
(Zebra Bouquet #1, $3.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6278-8
**
Courtney Clonninger's grandfather left her a large horse farm in Kentucky, but he didn't leave her enough money to run it. Courtney believes that Gus, a horse she has raised, will be colt of the year and bring her sufficient funds to finance the farm and help her kickstart her breeding program. Right away, I was struck by how much was riding on this one young animal.

Horse broker Seth Cameron arrives at Courtney's farm to look at this colt that people are talking about. He realizes immediately that Gus has great possibilities and he tries to persuade Courtney to let him sell Gus, or else to syndicate him. Courtney refuses, believing she can get the farm in the black through her own efforts. She is actually outraged by Seth's offer because Gus is the single most important thing in her life, and making the farm profitable is her focus.

Although Courtney is prickly as a pear and terminally rude as well, nonetheless, Seth begins to fall in love with her and decides to do everything he can to make sure that she does not lose the farm. Gone is his dream of syndicating Gus. Instead, he starts hustling his clients to board horses and to train their yearlings at Idle Hour Farm, thus bringing Courtney a cash flow.

Is she appreciative? Of course not, because she wants to do it all herself! Loaded with baggage along the line that 'everyone who was supposed to love me left me,' she is not the most charming of heroines.

It's obvious that Courtney has a lot of room for personal growth, and mostly by narrative we see it happen. Seth is certainly more tenacious than she deserves, and again mostly by narrative we see him restore financial viability to the farm. Snappy dialogue or at least more dialogue would have moved this story at a faster pace.

If horse racing is your choice of spectator sports or you yearn for the blue grass of Kentucky, then perhaps you can overlook the problems I had with The Winner's Circle.

--Thea Davis


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