California Riding Magazine • May, 2008

Views & Reviews
Fiction and Fantasy

by Nan Meek

If you enjoy reading equine fiction or fantasy, I have a treat for you! I recently discovered The Hunt and The Chase, hunt country suspense novels by Jan Neuharth, as well as the fantastic tales of When Horses Could Fly written by Sharon Janus and beautifully illustrated by Kathy Newell-Worby.


The Hunt and The Chase

Not being a foxhunter myself, I enjoy reading about the sport. Discovering The Hunt and The Chase, and learning that author Jan Neuharth will have another book published next year, opened up hours of reading enjoyment as well as anticipation for more to come.
The Hunt introduces Doug Cummings, an attractive and wealthy single lawyer and horseman, whose first legal defense case years earlier comes back to haunt him in the guise of the defendant’s brother, Zeb McGraw. Intent on vengeance for his brother’s prison suicide, which Zeb blames on Doug – never mind that the brother was guilty of the crime for which he was charged – Zeb proceeds to stalk Doug and those close to him.

With enough suspense to keep the reader awake well into the night, and well-drawn characters whose strengths and weaknesses render them familiar as an old friend, The Hunt is unequivocally a great read. Set in Middleburg, VA, this horse country is the author’s home turf, and the inclusion of local landmarks and characters provides an authenticity that only enhances the fiction.

I won’t give away all the suspenseful details, but I can say that in the end, Doug survives the attempts to drive him crazy before killing him … but who is responsible for which act of terror? There are plot twists and surprises aplenty that I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.

Doug and the other main characters – Anne, his defense lawyer; Samantha, her young niece; and Kendall, Anne’s friend – reappear in The Chase, with their relationships even closer and the threat to Doug and those he cares for even more convoluted.

In The Chase, Doug and Anne have married and adopted Samantha, and life is looking like a smooth road until Doug is critically injured while trailering his horse home from a hunt. The timely appearance of a mysterious cowboy, who helps save the horse while Doug is being transported to hospital is coincidence … or is it? His appearance could be sinister, or not, but it takes time to work out the truth.

In the meantime, Doug’s nemesis, Zeb McGraw, escapes from prison and with help from other family members, carries out a plot in which he intends to succeed this time, unlike his failure in The Hunt. Unlike many suspense novels, Neuharth has created “bad guys” who have hearts as well as minds, twisted as both may be. Being able to understand the twisted logic and ambivalent affection among the villains, brings an added dimension of reality to the suspense, which only serves to intensify it.

There’s something about these characters – heroes and villains alike – that makes spending time with them, engrossed in the pages of Neuharth’s books, a compelling and rewarding experience.
Maybe it’s the thought that none of the events in these books are so far-fetched that they couldn’t be pulled from the headlines. Maybe it’s the appearance of evil in an atmosphere where the only violence should be the whims of mother nature, which can be bad enough without the added depravity of father crime. Maybe it’s simply that Jan Neuharth spins a great story, with enough reality to temper the imagination and enough creativity to sustain anxiety until “the end.”

There’s something about The Hunt and The Chase that kept me awake and reading until it was time for the horse’s morning feed. Bleary-eyed, I tossed hay to the horses and wondered what comes next for Doug, Anne and Samantha. Jan Neuharth’s next novel can’t be published soon enough for me – watch for it in 2009. Currently, The Hunt and The Chase are available through www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and at the author’s web site, www.huntcountrysuspense.com.


When Horses Could Fly

No matter your age – adult, child or teen – if you have even an ounce of imagination, you’ll enjoy this collection of tales told by a mother horse to her two youngsters, a filly and a colt. When Horses Could Fly appeals to the imagination of horse lovers of all ages.

Author Sharon Janus has created a warm and wonderful voice in mother horse, who explains to her offspring such topics as “Why Horses Snort,” “Why Horses Have Tails,” “Why Horses Have Long Faces” and many more. Kathy Newell-Worby’s charmingly beautiful watercolors illustrate each “tale” and perfectly capture the fantastical whimsy of the characters and their antics.

My favorite tale, “Why Horses Buck,” explains both the angelic nature of horses when they are behaving and their not-so-angelic nature when they’re misbehaving. It seems that long ago, horses were angels complete with wings, but when they were sent to earth to help guide humans, they lost their wings.

“So whenever you see a horse buck,” the mother horse tells her children, “it is really an angel forgetting that he no longer has wings. And this is why horses buck.”

That explains to me a lot about my wonderful Andy’s angelic nature and occasional flights of fantasy!

When Horses Could Fly is available through www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and at the publisher’s web site, www.equibooks.com.

Happy Reading, Happy Riding

Here’s to another month of happy reading and happy riding!