Title: Raising the Bar
Series: States of Love
Author: Leigh Dillon
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 91 Pages
At a Glance: If you’re looking for a novella (sometimes novella length is so perfect, right?) that’s both interesting and unique, and has a sexy, mouthy horse whisperer, and a slightly buttoned up ex-professor turned reluctant farm owner, then check out Raising the Bar.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Destin Bellingham has inherited a problem. Thanks to his late playboy father, Destin faces putting a For Sale sign on his family’s historic horse farm. Getting his talented stallion, Black Sambuca, into the Grand Prix show ring would put Bellmeade back on the map—if only someone could make “Sam” behave like a show horse.
Disgraced top rider Tonio Benedetto has his own problems, but he can work magic with difficult jumpers, so Destin hires him despite his bad-boy reputation. The street-smart, openly gay loudmouth from Miami and the closeted, buttoned-down son of Old Dominion Virginia make a rocky pairing, but time is running out to save Bellmeade from bankruptcy.
Opposites attract, sparks of tension grow into flames of passion. But if Tonio fails to tame Sam, will true love become a lost cause too?
Review: There were a lot of things I liked about this little book. There were a couple of small hiccups…But, really, despite those little misses, Raising the Bar was a hit for me. First, I totally dug the setting. Author Leigh Dillon obviously knows her stuff as far as the horse raising/training/breeding world goes. She painted extremely vivid and beautiful pictures of the landscapes of Virginia, and of Bellmeade, the main character’s family’s horse farm, and I found her descriptions of the actual horse training and showing to be fascinating. There have been a couple of books in the States of Love series, of which this book is a part, that have missed the mark as far as representing their respective states, but Dillon hit the nail on the head here. The beauty and rich history of at least this little corner of Virginia came through on every page.
I also liked both Destin and Tonio quite a bit, though some better character development for both characters would have undoubtedly enriched the story. There was just enough to get and keep me invested, but also leave me a little bit disappointed. There was a scene where the guys shared a fair amount of personal information with each other, which was nice, but I wanted more. It was the relationship development, though, that was truly lacking. There was an initial attraction, and a glimpse of chemistry or UST, but their declarations of caring about each other and deciding to date happened pretty abruptly and came seemingly out of nowhere. There needed to be muuuuch more leading up to them getting together. That being said, though, oddly, I was still down for it! Ha! There were a couple of very special moments between them, one in particular where Tonio is describing how he felt walking into Bellmeade and seeing Destin, and I don’t know, I just fell for it. I honestly felt how much the farm meant to both of them, and how much they wanted to make it work.
The scenes with Tonio working with Black Sambuca were fantastic. I loved the excitement, and the not knowing what Sam was going to do at any given moment. Tonio’s knowledge and how he took care of Sam was very sexy. And, I loved the honest and real tension between the guys when they were going head to head over something to do with the business. I also enjoyed the little future peak the epilogue gave us.
If you’re looking for a novella (sometimes novella length is so perfect, right?) that’s both interesting and unique, and has a sexy, mouthy horse whisperer, and a slightly buttoned up ex-professor turned reluctant farm owner, then check out Raising the Bar. I wish it had been slightly more fleshed out, but I’m very glad I picked it up.
You can buy Raising the Bar here:
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