Guest Author - Susan Hopf
This intriguing story, ďThe Lost HoursĒ authored by Karen White, starts with a secret that lures you in from the first page. Our main character, Piper Mills, physically and mentally wounded from a riding accident that short-circuits her Olympic aspirations, whiles away the endless days with her new occupation in genealogy.
Within the first few pages we discover that the loss of both parents at an early age left her to be raised by grandparents that were determined to push her into a better life. She spends long hours in the saddle, on the road competing in one high level horse show after another, riding fast and jumping high, secure in her belief that nothing else bad could ever touch her. But one wrong and arrogant decision over a jump ends her equestrian career as well as the life of her constant companion through all those long hours Ė a grand horse named Fitz.
Recovery from the riding accident was difficult for Piper. Her physical injuries damaged both her knee and back and left her in constant pain. Her pride and confidence were destroyed Ė a fact, which she tries to hide with sarcasm and apathy until the delivery of a mysterious letter just days after her grandfatherís death launches Piper into another family drama which includes a secret room, a small blue sweater and a few missing pages in her grandmotherís scrapbook. As the mystery unfolds lush landscapes filled with highly scented flowers become intertwined with secretive and tragic memories that serve to shape the future of this determined young woman.
The grandmother, Annabelle, was a distant, cold, maternal influence. Piper as most young people would, resented the driving force behind the old womanís constant pushing and grew to dislike her. Seeking refuge with her kinder grandfather she now must face another tragic fact of life as she buries him and is left to face the grandmotherís downward spiral into Alzheimerís.
The growing intrigue regarding the scrapbook coupled with her grandmotherís inability to satisfy her curiosity ultimately leads Piper to rent a cottage at Asphodel Meadows Ė the equestrian estate owned by Lily, the childhood friend of her grandmotherís. This matriarch of a rich equestrian estate was mentioned many times throughout Annabelleís scrapbook but all of Piperís correspondence with Lily remained unanswered. Now consumed with finding out the truth Piper rents the guest cottage under the guise of researching a local genealogy project.
The business of horses is hard to hide. Asphodel Meadows is an active equestrian facility. The aroma of cut hay and well oiled tack blend with the sounds of snorting horses and metal shoes clipping along well-groomed lanes. The past catches up with her through nightmares and the resurfacing of emotions that were well stowed away
Throughout the course of uncovering her own truths she meets and establishes a relationship with the grandchildren of Lily. The recent loss of their mother and their fatherís guilt surrounding his wifeís death has left the children longing for someone to help them heal. Living on a horse farm a connection with horses seems like a natural choice with which to occupy his grieving children but Tucker, despite his own developed competency with horses, fears for the safety of his children so refuses to engage the childrenís interest. Piperís past prowess in the equestrian world is not known and Piper is engaged as more babysitter than instructor when the father can no longer ignore the childrenís requests that he teach them to ride. Horses being horses Piperís skills become apparent as she is compelled to assist the children when they bite off more than they can chew.
Many intriguing sub-plots grab you from the start and keep your interest throughout. Dealing with human loss on all levels, including a murder where you least expect it, this short novel is hard to put down. A great book to read by the fire on a cold winter weekend when you crave the warmth of the southern sun.
I received a free advanced copy for review.