Sunday, 5 May 2013

Giving Chase gets a thumbs-up from the Racing Post


Those who have read Hannah Hooton's acclaimed novel, Keeping the Peace, her second racing novel, will welcome this delightful sequel. However, Giving Chase works just as well as a standalone effort.
This novel focuses on Francesca 'Frankie' Cooper, a young woman taken on as an amateur jockey at Aspen Valley Racing Stables, where a conflict develops between love and ambition when she is offered the ride on the favourite Peace Offering in the Grand National - thereby taking the opportunity away from star jockey Rhys Bradford.

The pair become lovers, but her loyalty is tested when her father Doug, hitherto the only man in her life, is strongly opposed to the relationship. Frankie's father, a respected former jockey, is an exemplary figure to her and she strives to make him proud, an unequal task given that her brother was also a promising jockey until his untimely death. Memories, though, may be rose-tinted, as her lover points out: "Everyone's made him into this beaming ray of sunshine and left you completely in the shadows."

Although Hooton skilfully deals with some weighty topics - the aftermath of infidelity, the daily risks to life and limb faced by jump jockeys - she is also blessed with a ready wit and astute comedy timing. For example, the second chapter had me laughing out loud, reminiscent of a Tom Sharpe novel but funnier.

In an engaging romance, the author has crafted characters who are easy to identify with, so that you feel empathy towards the protagonist. The heroine is a modern-day woman, flawed and vulnerable: it is a joy to follow her journey of self-discovery via the central story arc as Frankie approaches the tantalising prospect of becoming the first female to ride the Grand National winner. - Patricia Franklin, RP

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