Tory Maxwell is too overweight to make a splash on the Cotswolds debutante scene, and her domineering mother makes no secret of her shortcomings. When sexy Jake Lovell pays her a scrap of attention, she makes a life-altering proposal: if Jake will marry her, allowing her to squeeze out from under her mother’s influence, she’ll use her money to purchase a champion show jumping horse so he can compete. She considers it a worthwhile investment, as does Jake.
Rupert Campbell-Black is the bad boy of the show jumping scene, a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em Lothario who wins competitions and young women’s hearts. When he meets Helen Macaulay, a gorgeous Southern belle exiled to England because of her affair with a college professor, it looks like his days of seduction are numbered.
Jake and Rupert have a past beyond horses and show jumping—they attended boarding school together, and wealthy Rupert and his friends bullied Jake extensively. Rupert doesn’t remember, but Jake does, and he makes it his personal crusade to ruin Rupert’s life in any way that he can. As the level of competition escalates in preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the personal and the professional collide, and lives are changed forever.
RIDERS was first published in 1985, but it doesn’t seem dated at all. The characters are larger-than-life—the men are sexy, the women are seductive, and the relationships are passionate. There are definite heroes and villains, but Ms. Cooper’s characters are not completely evil or completely good—they’re human, and even the “bad guys” do a few things right here and there, and the “good guys” are human and flawed. The characters grow and change with time, as well, making them seem even more realistic. The show-jumping competition scenes are tense and exciting, and even if you don’t like horses or know nothing about show jumping, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the excitement.
This is a very lengthy novel—over 700 pages—but it’s so fast-paced and suspenseful and exciting that you’ll stay up late reading just to find out what happens next. I hope that Touchstone will consider releasing the other novels in Ms. Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles series. Though RIDERS could easily stand alone, I found myself wondering what would happen next to these characters I had grown to know so well.