The Highest Stakes
Emery Lee vividly portrays the world of 18th-century British and American horseracing in her debut novel.
Robert Devington has spent much of his youth working in the racing stables of a country baronet whose orphaned niece, Charlotte, soon becomes the object of Robert’s affection. Determined to be worthy of the young lady, Robert quits the stables to join the King’s Horse Guards. Action on the continent swiftly raises him to the position of captain, but even this promotion does not sway the heartless, striving baronet, who is determined to marry both Charlotte and his own children into the nobility. With the help of Robert’s commanding officer, who happens to be the wastrel second son of an earl, Robert tries to win Charlotte through a horse race. But the good captain is thwarted at every turn, betrayed by those he trusted, and eventually transported to the colonies. There, Robert sets his mind on one thing only—revenge.
Emery Lee knows horses. This novel is full of detail about pedigrees, how to care for them, ride them, train them, stud them, foal them, and sling them onto ships. In addition, the author describes the multiple horse races with verve and passion. Unfortunately, the thinly-drawn characters—the striving heartless father, the spoiled wanton daughter, the petulant aristocratic homosexual—seem to come straight from central casting. It’s a disappointment in what is otherwise an impressive debut.