Review: Thrown by Colette Auclair

thrown by colette auclairPublisher: Pocket Star
Publish Date: December 16, 2013
How I got this book: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

THROWN is a lighthearted yet steamy contemporary romance by Golden Heart finalist Colette Auclair, featuring a young woman who must choose between capturing a gold medal and the man who’s captured her heart.

In THROWN, professional trainer Amanda Vogel dreams of riding jumpers in the Olympics, but after seeing her best friend die in a riding accident, she’s so traumatized she can’t show. Broke and desperate, she takes a summer job in Aspen teaching some big-shot widowed movie star’s spoiled daughters to ride—even though she hates teaching kids. She braces herself for three miserable months. But by Labor Day, she has to choose between capturing a gold medal…and the man who has captured her heart.
This blurb came from Goodreads

“Throw your heart over the fence and the horse will follow” feels like the motto for this wonderfully heartwarming love story about a woman who takes most of a summer to realize that she threw her heart over the fence the moment she broke Grady Brunswick’s Emmy.

If you’ve ever had a soft spot in your heart for horses (and most of us did at least for a little while) you’ll probably throw your heart over the very same fence.

Thrown is a story with a bigger cast of characters than normal, because it’s not just about the romance. It actually takes a while for the romance in this book to heat to the boiling-point. And that’s what makes this story so damn good.

Amanda Vogel is more than just a horse trainer. She’s also one of the top show jumpers in the U.S. She just has this teeny little problem. She can’t jump. Not exactly. She’s okay in training, but not in an event. No judges. The last time she was in an event, her best friend died on the turf, right in front of her. PTSD is a bitch.

But Amanda hasn’t lost her dream of being on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian team. She just has to get herself all the way back together so she can go back into the ring. And for that, she needs to get her finances in order. Except that no one will hire a trainer who can’t also show jump the horse.

So Amanda hires herself out as a riding instructor to TV star Grady Brunswick, to teach his pre-teen daughters riding over their summer in Aspen. Amanda is not prepared for either the handsome but guilt-ridden widowed Grady or the two spoiled terrors that are the girls she is expected to teach.

She doesn’t have a clue what to do about her attraction to the man, but she does know how to train spoiled animals. Amanda decides that the same system of rules, boundaries and rewards that works when training horses might work with over-indulged pre-teens who are over-acting in order to get attention. Amanda’s system works, and the girls thrive. They also learn to love their riding lessons.

Amanda, who originally thought this job was just a way to do something with horses for the summer so she could pay her bills, finds herself in emotionally over her head. She becomes attached to the girls, Solstice and Wave. They need her, and she comes to love them.

But then there’s their father, Grady Brunswick. Amanda and Grady are attracted to each other from the very beginning, but any relationship between them has significant obstacles to jump. First, Grady is her boss. Amanda has been there and done that, exactly once, and it was a huge emotional and career disaster. Not something she wants to revisit.

Grady has bucket-loads, possibly even horse-trough-loads, of guilt over the raising of his daughers and the death of his wife. Hence his spoiling of the terrors. He does not know what to do to be their parent, and Amanda’s ability to get them to simply mind her has him awed, terrified and jealous to the point of madness.

Grady is an actor. A very, very good one. It makes him damn good at being other people, but necessarily good at just being himself. Also acting is the profession of the extremely insecure. He’s had one heck of a lot of therapy to get over some of that, but it’s still there. His buttons are pretty easy to push, and his mother knows how to push them all because she installed them. Her agenda in this story is not in Grady’s best interests.

So the story is about the creation of a family-by-choice. Grady has already started to do that, but Amanda is the missing piece. His daughters need her brand of light discipline, tough love, and just plain boundary setting. It shows she cares. Grady needs the lesson in being the adult and not a friend. He also needs a woman to show him what’s real and not Hollywood fake. He’s trying but not there yet.

Amanda needs to put her heart out there, and she falls for the girls first, because they’re still genuine in their affection. With Grady, it takes her a lot longer because he screws up a lot more in ways that are harder to forgive. He’s an adult and he’s supposed to know better. Sometimes sexual attraction clouds everyone’s judgement in both good ways and bad ways.

Amanda has been hurt in so many different ways. She’s been trying to protect herself because her experience is that everyone she loves leaves her. She has to take as big a risk with her heart as she does when she jumps a horse.

I thought this was a  terrific story about love taking time to develop in order for it to be right for everyone. Throw your own heart into Thrown.

I give Thrown an A-

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