Get Your Derby On....

The Kentucky Derby is one of America's grandest traditions.  You take the very best three year old racehorses in the country, grab the wildest hat you can find, and ply over 150,000 fans with all the mint juleps they can drink and you've got yourself one very rollicking good time in Louisville, Kentucky each year.

Must. Have. This. Hat.

The Kentucky Derby is - by tradition - always run on the first Saturday in May and for those of you without a calendar handy, that means it's coming up this Saturday.  A Reader's Respite marks this day with a red Sharpie pen each's a big deal in our household.  (Mr. RR would argue that the biggest sporting event of the year is the World Series, but what does he know?)  We may not be able to remember Big Kid's dentist appointment on Friday (or is it Thursday?), but we can tell you the winner of the Kentucky Derby for each year since it's inception.  Yes, we're strange that way.  Get over it.

We're salivating just thinking about these....

What does all of this have to do with books?  A lot, if you're author Emery Lee, who has just released her debut historical novel, The Highest Stakes.  Set amid the horse racing world of Georgian England and the American Colonies in the mid-18th century, Lee shows off her impressive knowledge of thoroughbred history in this saga-esque tale of horses, deception, revenge and true love.

Writing a historical novel centered around horse-racing would normally severely limit your audience, but  Emery neatly fixes this problem by wrapping it all up in a grand romance thwarted by class differences.  She deftly throws up roadblocks left and right for the erst-while lovers and while the text is peppered with a horseman's vocabulary, readers without a background in the horse world won't find this an impediment.

While you won't find much about the Derby in The Highest Stakes (the race wasn't inaugurated until 1875, much later than the time frame of this novel), you will find plenty of racing lore, famous pedigrees (consider it name-dropping in the horse world), and riveting races.  It's a horse racing fanatic's dream come true and a darned good introduction to world of the majestic thoroughbred.

So here's the line up for the 2010 Kentucky Derby, with A Reader's Respite's winning choice in red:

Lookin at Lucky
Ice Box
Nobles Promise
Super Saver
Line of David
Simply Victor
American Lion
Dean's Kitten
Make Music For Me
Paddy O Prado
Devil May Care (*filly)
Jackson Bend
Mission Impazible
Discreetly Mine
Awesome Act
Sidney's Candy

If you're wondering which horse to throw your $2 bet on, take the advice of A Reader's Respite's sage mother....always bet on the grey or the filly.  And if there is a grey filly running, it's game on.

Dear Mr. FTC Man: We read a copy provided by Sourcebooks, but you'll just have to get your own.

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