The Horsewoman – James Patterson and Mike Lupica

The Horsewoman by James Patterson, Mike Lupica
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary
on January 10, 2022
Genres: Fiction
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Mother and daughter, both champion riders—but only one can make Olympic history. James Patterson’s first book with hall-of-fame sportswriter Mike Lupica.  When the buzzer sounds, twenty-one-year-old Becky McCabe takes one last look around. What she’s feeling right now is why riders do this. Young or old. Man or woman. Mother or daughter. The toughest combination comes early, a tight one, hardly any time to react after the first jump.           Just like that they’re into it. Big-time. Horse and rider take a killer inside turn on the rollback two jumps later. No choice but to go inside if they’re here to win. And Becky sure isn’t here to finish second. How could anyone go faster than this? No one can. Except the rider who’s up next...

Let me preface this review by saying I am a horse person. I own a horse. I have been riding for close to 20 years. Granted, I’ve mostly ridden in a Western saddle, not English, but I follow the English side of the equestrian sport enough to know there are many things in The Horsewoman by James Patterson and Mike Lupica that are wrong. Even someone with limited horse experience–like watching showjumping in the Olympics, even—would know this book has errors.  As a horsewoman myself, I did not think this novel was worth my time; and to be frank, a small part of me found it insulting.

Just a few of the errors. I could write many more and ramble on for two thousand words, but I won’t make anyone reading this review suffer through it like I had to. For the first time in a long time, I did not want to finish a book…but I did, because I felt compelled to save others from The HorsewomanPlease keep in mind with this novel that the main three female characters have been around horses their entire lives.

  • Book refers to a mare as being “dark gray as a colt.” A baby horse is called a foal. If you want to specify a gender, a male foal is a colt a female foal is a filly.
  • Becky McCabe competes on her smaller-than-all-the-other-showjumpers mare named Sky. Book mentions that she knocks down rails and still finishes five seconds before her competitors? How? In the elite levels of showjumping, you’re lucky if you’re a second ahead—even half a second.
  • The saddle is apparently “heavy as hell.” English saddles can be heavy, but not jumping saddles. And they are nothing compared to my Western saddle that weighs 35 pounds.
  • General misunderstanding of equine maladies/injuries. I have personal experience with one mentioned in The Horsewoman. While I understand every horse is different, I don’t think cellulitis works quite like the book depicts it.

The Horsewoman by James Patterson and Mike Lupica also has an overabundance of clichés for horse girl stories.  I will not say more due to spoilers, but the book reminded me of the really cheesy horse girl movies I watched (and enjoyed) as a child, just with a lot more swearing.  Patterson and Lupica also sneak in a political agenda, which I did not appreciate nor enjoy.  The characters were all too flat for me, and the timelines were unbelievable.  The villain was banal; every horse story has to have the “only in it for the money” guy.  No part of The Horsewoman surprised me.  I did not feel the “high stakes” or the “thrill” or anything of the sort; I just wanted it to end.

James Patterson and Mike Lupica: Thanks for giving the world a glimpse into showjumping. I do have to give you that. Horseback riding isn’t in the spotlight enough, though I’d argue it’s one of the hardest Olympic sports out there.  But there was nothing that made this book special, at least not in my opinion.  I felt no connection. No concern about the characters’ chances, because…well, cheesy horse girl story, I guessed what would happen. Lo and behold, I was right.

I felt no connection. In fact, I would even go so far as to say I felt nothing at all besides relief when I hit the final page.  A non-equestrian would probably enjoy this novel far more than I did. I couldn’t get past its errors or overused horse-story clichés.