Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery is set to become an Olympic champion. The goal consumes her, encasing her in a world ruled over by just one man: Monty Montgomery, her father, her coach – and abuser.
Monty demands strict obedience in all aspects of her life. But Roan knows nothing beyond this world, and her ruthless professional ambition means she can compartmentalise her abuse. That is, until she meets Will Howard.
Connecting with someone else, someone new, forces Roan to question everything that has led to this moment in her life. But can this new point of light keep the darkness at bay?
Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for my gifted copy of this book and inviting me to be involved in the blogtour celebrating publication of this debut fiction.
The name and synopsis tell you the essentials, this book is set in the equestrian world, Roan lives with her successful and ambitious Olympian father. Schooling her in horseriding, both driven for her to replicate his success, he is strict and he is abusive. Sexually abusive to his daughter.
Roan is an interesting character living in an affluent and priviledged world, she is given special treatment at school in the form of shorter days, in the fulfillment of her dream and recognition of her father. Riding is not only a dream within reaching distance, but also a cover, she has limited time out of school for friends and the control her father holds seems reasonable in the pursuit of this shared dream.
This book is dark and disturbing and won’t be for everyone but it is a compelling read and one I thought was excellent. Roan is 15 years old, her father is in charge and her mother is powerless, absenting herself from what she knows her husband is doing to their daughter through alcohol and pills.
For Roan, Will a boy at school is the catalyst for her life, the abuse becoming unbearable, something she can no longer stifle and ignore. Her character is complex as the author delicately explores this child’s conflicting feelings, the daddy she loves, the coach and athlete she admires and the abuser she hates. The confusion of this one person. As the family implodes, Monty seeks to control his daughter further, while the emergence of Will and Roan’s situation felt increasingly desperate.
An impressive and brave debut, the author tackles a very difficult subject very well. The shame, secrecy, manipulation and control were all tangible as well as the confusion and pain for Roan. Aspects of the book were particularly hard and not always specific to the sexual abuse, although that was ever present in the background. The character of Monty although despicable was so well developed in a multifaceted character.
Without spoilers the book ended well, impressively even, in a way that I did not anticipate but that felt both plausible and satisfying. I would recommend this book, truthfully I thought it was brilliant, but it does have triggers, it is in parts brutal with a central theme of a father sexually abusing his daughter. This powerful read is a debut and I am very interested to see what comes next from this author.
About the Author
Susan Mihalic is an editor and writer who used to work in therapeutic horseriding. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she can often be found riding her horse, Goldmark, in the foothills of Sangre de Crista Mountains.
Dark Horses is her first novel.
This is a blogtour celebrating publication of this impressive debut novel. Check out what others are saying, details below.