Setting and Environment Building (and Horsey Stuff)
After my last book review diving into the “horse lit” world, I am giving it another go with Impelled by Sarah Welk Baynum. Thank you Sarah for reaching out and sending me a copy of your book. This book is quite different in plot, characters, setting, and general drivers to the story from the book I just reviewed in October. While the last book I reviewed was very character based and internal in plot development, this one is almost completely external in terms of action. So while I enjoyed both of them, they in no way can be compared. However there are a couple of big similarities – they are both appropriate for a teen (or older) audience with some clean romance and nothing too scandalous. Oh…and there are a lot of horses!
Impelled is a story about a college girl that has a choice forced upon her. That choice naturally leads her down the road of working student in the Florida scene (because that’s what we all want to do right?). There’s a love triangle, some drama (because there’s always drama with horses) and some scary “thriller” moments. It is wonderful to read a book like this because most of us all wish we could go back to the time we could be working students and move halfway across the country to go after a dream. There’s quite a bit of fantasy here for all horse girls…because where else do we want to be but in Florida during the winter. And with multiple guys chasing after us? And nice horses to ride? Absolutely. I might even happily take the suspense parts of the story if I could go live Emma’s life for a little bit. Ha!
The setting and the horse element of the story is certainly very realistic. I may have had some moments with the convenience of the plot that jostled me out of the story, but the horsey stuff was spot on. The best parts of the story were the parts in the barn. The parts outlining her work day. The parts at the horse shows. You really can imagine yourself in the barns and locations. All of the locations feel very real and well flushed out. The times I liked Emma the most was when she was riding or working with the horses (though strangely she didn’t spend as much time with her own horse as I would have expected).
The main character is a little annoying to me at times as she seems overly naive for a soon to be college graduate that lives on her own and has a job. However that personality trait certainly leads her into some situations that cause her difficulties and give direction to the plot. She’s certainly the most hashed out character in the book with one of the love interests being second, but even a lot of time they felt like character outlines rather than fully flushed out characters. I would have appreciated more character development on a lot of the characters to make the world feel a bit more well rounded. The book read a bit like a diary in terms of the lack of attention placed on other characters. That tended to make Emma look very self centered even when I don’t think she actually is. I only walked away feeling like I knew two of the characters to any extent at all…and I kinda want to read the other two books just to see if I can learn a bit more about them, not considering plot.
The plot is entertaining and once the first few chapters were out of the way, very quickly paced. This isn’t your typical “girl and her horse” story…though there are elements of that later. While horses are the central key to her life, they aren’t the plot driver (so if you were worried about that, don’t be). I do think there were some very convenient things that happened at various points to drive forward the plot, but I can look over that in a fun read. I wasn’t expecting to walk away from this book surprised or shocked…and I wasn’t. But I did walk away entertained. And I did read the second half of the book in just a matter of two evenings after I put my daughter down for bed. I had a good time reading it. I would certainly read the next two in the series too.
Impelled by Sarah Welk Baynum was a fun, easy read and it made me want to go to Ocala and Wellington immediately (I’ve never been). The book did a great job giving you the working student experience without getting too heavy handed in the details or without over-glamorizing it. The romance is sweet and her relationship with one of the guys is probably the best part of the story the way it develops. It’s a good book to pick up for some easy holiday reading. Or perhaps for a mental getaway weekend to Florida to hang out with some hunky 20 something guys and a bunch of fancy jumper horses? 😉