Bold Strokes / October 15, 2013 / $16.95 print
Sergeant Rachel Bryce’s determination to uphold the rules at any cost has made her a pariah on the Tacoma police force. When she is put in charge of the new mounted division, dissension in the ranks seems to guarantee the program’s failure. Rachel asks an old college acquaintance to help her train the horses and their riders before they make their public debut amid the fireworks and crowds on the Fourth of July.
Callan Lanford doesn’t play by the rules. She invents her own. The scion of a polo-playing dynasty, Cal has been riding since before she could walk, and she scores both on and off the field with equal ease. But she isn’t prepared for the emotional ride she takes as Rachel forces her to confront her achievement-oriented family’s rejection. Cal’s attraction to Rachel grows, but both their future together and the future of the mounted unit are uncertain, plagued by “accidents” and threats.
As Rachel and Cal battle a corrupt politician’s greed in the face of mounting danger, can their love prevail?
Mounting Danger by Karis Walsh combines a fascinatingly different police story with romance between police officer Rachel Bryce and champion polo player Callan Lanford. Rachel, who’s been ostracized from her fellow officers after reporting a cop and having him arrested, is abruptly put in charge of the Tacoma force’s new equestrian unit, just after the former sergeant was killed. She has an almost impossible task before her: getting the unit ready for crowd control in a limited period of time, while trying to figure out why the dead sergeant had secretively hampered the unit’s training at every turn. Her only hope for success with the mounted unit is convincing Callan Lanford, a wealthy, attractive polo player whom Rachel vaguely remembers from her own college polo days, to help out with training the police officers and their horses.
Callan, who goes by Cal, does not need money or status, but she’s attracted to Rachel and welcomes the request as an opportunity to stay in contact with her; however, she’s “married to polo” and is wary of commitment. Cal is confident she can seduce Rachel, as she’s never had problems with seduction before, but worries that her interest in Rachel’s seemingly hopeless task, and Rachel’s dedication to her cause, might be a distraction and cause too much emotional entanglement. Rachel, meanwhile, needs connection; she’s in the midst of dealing with being lonely and isolated from her colleagues and ex-girlfriend, whom she formerly relied upon for support.
Sergeant Rachel Bryce got in her patrol car and slammed the door behind her, needing some noise, some proof she wasn’t as invisible and incorporeal as a ghost. Rows of police vehicles— identical except for their small identifying numbers—lined the parking lot of Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium. Small groups of officers—identical except for their faces, their body types, their name badges—formed clusters in between the rows of cars. They were a community, a family. Bound as strongly by unseen ties as by their similar uniforms. But not Rachel. She was alone…an invisible, impenetrable wall had gone up between her and everyone she had considered family before that day.
The best part of this novel is how the two women, wildly disparate in terms of personality, are brought together through their mutual love of horses. The details of Cal’s career as a polo player and coach, and the unique challenges of a modern mounted police force, fascinated me. The specialized knowledge Rachel and Cal’s work requires gives them a connection that is separate from ties they have to non-equestrians, and means their eventual romantic intimacy develops as they work together, demonstrating how and why they become more intimate. All three aspects of the plot, the romance, the mystery, and Rachel’s new duty as a commander, revolve around horses. The author is a professional riding instructor, and her knowledge and experience give the story an additional level of realism and significant detail that add to the plot conflict.
From the outside, the whole barn looked perfect. Perfectly managed, perfectly organized. And if Alex had been a riding instructor, preparing his students for a show or teaching them the fundamentals of riding, Rachel would have been as impressed with him as Hargrove seemed to be. But these officers and horses were preparing to be on the city streets in five weeks, chasing criminals, patrolling through rowdy holiday crowds, while being touched and bumped and spooked. They had barely made it through their short time at the memorial service without disaster. How would they handle Tacoma’s jammed waterfront on the Fourth?
…After her meeting with Hargrove, Rachel had searched on-line for any information she could find about mounted police horses and their training. Her brief, slightly panicked search had given her plenty of information about desensitizing the horses and getting them accustomed to gunshots, cars, and contact with people. Alex had experience. He had spent a few years as a mounted officer in Portland before transferring to Tacoma. Why had he spent the past two months teaching these riders nothing more than how to sit in a saddle?
Mounting Danger’s richly-detailed setting sets this romance apart, and adds to the fun of watching rakish Cal fall for rulebound Rachel. The mystery element adds an additional spice of intrigue to an already entertaining novel.
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