Rating: 3.5 stars
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Val loves horse racing and his job at Churchill Downs in IT is everything he could hope for as it affords him the opportunity to live in a small rented cottage near the training farm where his best friend, Janelle, works as a jockey. They have been good friends since their college days and their mutual love of horses is only part of the glue that holds them together. Unfortunately, a history of abusive exes is another piece. But all that is behind them and if Janelle’s ex, Charlie, comes around, Val is ready to use his considerable height to intimidate the man and scare him off. One night, things turn violent when Charlie attacks Janelle and their car later crashes. Janelle ends up in bad shape and it’s up to Val to try and find her father to let him know, even though Janelle and he are estranged and she wants nothing to do with the man.
Wyatt is an antiquities investigator dealing in fraud. He is in Europe when he gets the call about his daughter and rushes to her side. Between trying to mend their relationship and helping investigate exactly what is going on with her ex, Wyatt can’t take any time to be involved with another man—even if he is a tall, handsome guy who happens to be his daughter’s best friend. As the three get to know each other better and Janelle and her father learn to trust each other again, the relationship that is brewing between Val and Wyatt heats up, as does the mystery of a dead thoroughbred, three murder victims, and who could possibly be stalking Val.
Run for the Roses by Elizabeth Noble is a tangled web of a mystery involving prize-winning horses and those who care for and train them. While Val’s past is a bit unexplored in this novel, his present circumstances make for the intriguing plot that unfolds rather swiftly. This is no simple “who dunnit,” but rather an elaborate long-term con that will spell life threatening danger for Val and his friend, Janelle. The romance aspect of the story is almost secondary to the main purpose of the book—figure out who is running a deadly gambling scheme that involves track betting and race fixing.
The novel is well done. It is fast-paced and intricate, making it difficult to figure out who all the main players are and who the real target is of their scheming. While the relationship between Wyatt and Val isn’t uncomfortable in the sense of Wyatt being Janelle’s long estranged dad, it still feels mostly unfinished, with hints at the idea that Val is a submissive and Wyatt adept at being dominant. I understand that the author chose to make their main focus the mystery aspect, but I felt that with a bit more time dedicated to understanding Val and his past and watching he and Wyatt explore their feelings it would have gone a long way in making this story more cohesive. Instead, the relationship felt rushed and a bit unrealistic given all the upheaval and trauma going on.
Run for the Roses does well as a mystery and makes for a nice romance that feels just a tad unfinished. I do think fans of this author will enjoy this book and racehorse enthusiasts will be excited for such an intriguing and well researched look at the racing world.