Jules Thornton didn’t come to Ocala to make friends. She came to make a name for herself. Young, determined, and tough as nails, she’s been swapping stable-work for saddle-time since she was a little kid - and it hasn’t always been a fun ride. Forever the struggling rider in a sport for the wealthy, all Jules has on her side is talent and ambition. She’s certain all she needs to succeed are good horses, but will the eventing world agree?
This story hit close to home. I was the rider who cleaned stalls and tack for saddle time, who watched friends buy and lease show horses while I had to be content with whatever lesson horse wasn’t being used that day. While I never aspired to the competition career that Jules yearns for, I certainly know what it’s like to wish for respect and security in the sometimes brutal equestrian world.
Natalie’s strength as a writer lies in the fact that she is both a storyteller and a horse person. Natalie weaves the story of Jules, her horses, and their uncertain road to the upper levels of eventing with realism and detail. Her firsthand experience with horses is evident, and she uses that experience to develop both the human and the equine characters.
Perhaps best of all, horses don’t play a supporting role in this novel – rather, the novel centers around them. Horses are on every page, but the plot moves quickly. Richly detailed, a rider can’t help but nod her head in agreement with some of the comments and musings that Jules narrates. The situations are familiar grounds for so many riders.
Which brings us to one of the book’s only downfalls: While it’s highly accessible for riders, I don’t know that the same can be said for readers who have little to no horse knowledge. And that’s fine – shouldn’t equestrians have some novels intended just for them? – but I feel compelled to warn you that even though you may adore Ambition, your non-horsey friends and relatives will probably find themselves lost after the first chapter or so.
I found Ambition to be a little bit on the short side; I would have liked it to follow the adventure a little bit further. However, it definitely hints of another story to come – perhaps a sequel following Jules as she moves up to the big-time?
Ambition provides a lively account of the challenges of the horse world, the dedication and sacrifice that are standard characteristics in so many competitive riders, and the riders’ drive and desire that, if they go unchecked, can border on the destructive. This is all balanced out by moments of humor, making Ambition a fun and compelling read.
You can buy the e-book of Ambition on Amazon, and learn more about Natalie’s work through her website. Be sure to check out The Equine Insider’s own interview with Natalie as well!