A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.
Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.
At the intersection of a commercial page-turner and urgent survivor story, Dark Horses takes the searing themes of abuse and resilience in Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling and applies the compelling exploration of female strength in Roomby Emma Donoghue. In much the same way that V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic transfixed a generation of readers, Susan Mihalic’s debut is set to a steady beat that will keep you turning the pages.
From the outside, Roan Montgomery seems to have the perfect life. She comes from an affluent family famous in the highest circles of the insular equestrian community. She dreams of riding in the Olympics like her father. She has the drive, the resources, and the talent to capture the gold. No one could guess that Roan’s home life is less like a dream and more like a never-ending nightmare.
In my room, I crawled into bed fully dressed. He didn’t often make threats, but his coaching style wasn’t all positive affirmations, either. He reserved his charm for the public. It drove me crazy sometimes, the man I knew versus the man everyone else saw.
Every day is a new mine field to navigate. One misstep could result in separation from the one thing that makes her life tolerable – her horses.
Forced to cope with the jealousy of a drunk mother, the vicious barbs thrown by classmates and the unthinkable abuse at the hands of her father, Roan waits for a reprieve that never seems to come.
But everything changes when a beautiful boy named Will shows her what love really is. And with his help, Roan finds the courage to finally move from the darkness into the light.
“Okay,” I said slowly, “but if we’re going to see each other, there are conditions.”
With Dark Horses, Susan Mihalic delivers a story so atmospheric and raw that it’s impossible to put down. Her vast knowledge of the highly competitive show world blends seamlessly into the relationships that bind her unforgettable characters together and makes for a reading experience that feels just like a shot to the heart.
Bold, unsettling and poignant – Dark Horses is a book that will be with me for a very, very long time…