(This review originally appeared on HorseNation.com)
My favorite sentence in M. Garzon’s novel Blaze of Glory might be one that has absolutely nothing to do with horses. Here it is, in all its glory: “Now that’s vampire hot.” Hm. OK. It’s obviously way more funny in context. Maybe because it’s in reference to the main character Tea’s (pronounced Tay-a) step-cousin and is preceded by this description: “Jaden was taking a bale off the conveyer. He’d taken his shirt off… and I had to admit the view was impressive. His muscles weren’t huge like Kabir’s, but there seemed to be so many of them—you could have used him for anatomy class.”
Maybe I just liked the nod to the Twilight crowd, which is also pretty much the same as the intended audience for Blaze of Glory. But truly, Blaze of Glory has a lot more going for it than Twilight. Horses, obviously. Specifically jumpers and school horses and polo ponies. Also, boys bucking hay bales and a (human being) love interest who plays professional polo. And a tough cookie/smarty pants/scrappy protagonist who loves to argue, yet has a tremendous soft spot for troubled horses (Now that kind of girl doesn’t sound at all familiar, does she?). Then too, Blaze of Glory tackles a full roster of weighty issues: domestic violence and child abuse, loss (both human and equine), grief, depression, drug use, and sexual relationships, all wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about a complicated, troubled heroine. For these reasons, although Blaze of Glory is technically YA, I think it would appeal to and satisfy an older audience. In fact, I might even be a teensy worried about anyone younger than 17 (the age of our narrator) reading it, although the drug use is dealt with in an honest, non-glorifying way and the sexual intimacy is used to emphasize the right kinds of qualities (you know, love. Birth control. That kind of stuff).
The novel is fast paced and plot driven. Normally I’d call it a page-turner, but I was reading it on my Kindle, so I guess that makes it a push button book. This description is even more apt since, based on my extensive study of the greatest romance novel of all time (Pride and Prejudice, duh) and, you know, some other high quality romance novels, I can say with assurance that Blaze of Glory pretty much exhibits all the expected tropes of the Romance genre. This is sort of like how, when you ride a hunter you expect auto changes and when you ride an eventer or jumper you expect some crazed galloping between fences and when you ride a dressage horse you expect perfection. In the case of a romance novel this means that the romantic leads initially take a disliking to each other, their relationship is fraught with all kinds of verbal sparring, each character needs some sort of “rescue” at one time or another, their desire to be together is thwarted by circumstances out of their control, and, of course, it all ends happily. In Blaze of Glory, these tropes all occur in the context of horses (i.e. Tea has to be rescued from the skeevy underworld of the racetrack, Tea “rescues” Jaden’s horse from his fear of trailering, etc.). And the setting (especially the bits about polo which I know nothing about) and characters (Tea in particular) are unique enough that the story feels original. I do think some of the minor characters could be more fully developed. And if you’re expecting Art or Literature, this isn’t the book to ride off into the sunset with. If you’re looking for a totally entertaining, engrossing romance that has lots of spot-on horse action, well, then saddle up!
Oh, and word on the street is there’s a sequel coming soon. Take that, Twilight!