Tuesday, 7 January 2014

PBOTD: January 7th, Samantha Alexander - Will to Win

Samantha Alexander was an author I only came across as an adult. She was a prolific author, who produced 26 books in an eight year period. If you read pony books in the 1990s, you'll probably have come across one of her series: Riding School, Winners, Holywell Stables, and today's choice, Riders. I admit that I was producing babies at this point, and it wasn't until a few years later I revisited my pony book addiction, so Samantha Alexander and I never really crossed paths.

Macmillan first edition
I struggle with the main conceit of the Riders series, which is the relationship between its 14 year old heroine, Alex Johnson, and 19 year old Ash Burgess, eventer, manager of the livery stables at which Alex's pony Barney is stabled, a stables his parents own. Did I mention he is blonde, with blue eyes, and rather glamorous? For he is. To my eyes, the partnership between the two of them is one that as a parent would have had me tapping my foot on the sidelines, busy saying NOTHING in case I drove my daughter further into the arms of someone of whom I disapproved, on the grounds of their age, and the differences in his expectations, and hers.

If I'd read the series as a 14 year old, I expect I'd have found the whole situation intensely attractive. A 19 year old (19! Impossible god!) interested in me. It adds a whole new layer to the concept of wish fulfilment on which the pony book is based. Not only does this girl have the pony, she has the boy too.

Will to Win gets in a few more pony book tropes too: the disillusioned, handicapped-in-some-way, older figure who is prevailed upon to teach our inept heroine, and who finds a way through his difficulties because of it. There's also a yard baddie, Camilla, who has, you've guessed it, Too Much Money.

That said, the book's still a decent read, with believable characters and a decent plot.

It doesn't have a particularly interesting publishing history, in common with many books of the time. It was republished, with the same cover design, and was also given away as a freebie with the late lamented Horse and Pony Magazine.


Horse & Pony Magazine edition


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For a full listing of all Samantha Alexander's books, try here.

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