The first book in the Aspen Valley series by Hannah Hooton introduces readers to London waitress Pippa Taylor. Pippa has no interest in horses, nor any knowledge of them, yet surprisingly she finds herself inheriting two racehorses from her uncle.
In spite of the horses not having impressive performance records, they do have an impressive trainer in the form of renowned hunts trainer, Jack Carmichael. Pippa’s first meeting with the fiery trainer, finds her determined to prove him wrong about their lack of skill. It isn’t until she finds some cryptic notes left by her uncle, that she realises he has plans of a National Hunt win for one of them.
When Peace Offering isn’t bid on at a horse sale, Pippa is relieved to find she still owns a racehorse that should have been sold. And so starts her journey of convincing Jack that he can run in – and win – the Grand National.
Jack isn’t the only one to think the 26 year old fanciful and crazy. Pippa moves out of her boyfriend’s house and moves hours away to do up a cottage that her uncle also left her. Struggling to fund the renovations and pay for a racehorse in training, Pippa talks her way into working for Jack – as his secretary.
Although her waitressing skills don’t prepare her for secretarial work – or Jack’s incredible temper – Pippa’s personality helps her to take on the role and bring a bit more order to Aspen Valley stables. As Pippa finds herself drawn to the world of horse racing, she tries to ignore the pull she feels towards her attractive but angry boss. This would be easier if it didn’t seem like he was gaining an interest in his secretary – in spite of his high profile girlfriend.
Keeping the Peace is a great mixture of horse racing, mystery and romance. Pippa’s character is delightful, Jack amusing and Finn loveable. Tone down the language and it would be close to perfect.
“Horses change lives. They give our young people confidence and self-esteem. They provide peace and tranquillity to troubled souls – they give us hope!” – Toni Robinson