When he went to find the “Horsemaster”, Hunter Calhoun had more problems in his life than a wild, dangerous horse that he wasn’t able to train for his failing breeding farm. However, he had no idea how to handle the consequences of his wife’s tragic death or his young children’s ceaseless grief so he ignored it and concentrated on the one problem he could deal with – that of his stallion. The Horsemaster was Hunter’s last hope to save the Thoroughbred, so despite his better judgement he makes to trip over to Flyte Island for one last desperate attempt. He fears his cause his lost when a barefoot, unkept and wild looking girl informs him that the Horsemaster has died.
Eliza Flyte has never trusted men and when Hunter lands on the shore of her island she is prepared to immediately order him away. But when she sees the tortured stallion, Finn, with him, it touches her heart like nothing has since her father’s death. Despite fearing that her father’s gift with horses was somehow responsible for his death and that if others know of her similar talent she could be in danger, Eliza offers to help Hunter gentle the stallion. Hunter has his doubts that this little scrap of a woman could work with such a powerful and dangerous animal, but he agrees to give her some time to prove herself.
Eliza has always been more comfortable around animals than with humans. She’s never worn fine dresses, hates wearing shoes and hasn’t learned how to deport herself in social situations. What she knows of society has come from reading Shakespeare and Jane Eyre. But Eliza does have a remarkable way with horses that Hunter cannot deny and he soon comes to believe that Eliza’s talent just might save his stallion, and consequently, his means of life. Hunter is so thankful to Eliza that he wants to repay her somehow so he decides to take her back to his home in Virginia where she can stay until he earns enough money to give her the dream she has always had of traveling to California. At Hunter’s plantation, Albion, Eliza’s healing moves beyond that of caring for Finn and touches Hunter and his grieving children. However, once there, Eliza’s differences from society become glaringly evident and she knows that a future with Hunter and his children that she has grown to love is impossible. Furthermore, when secrets in both of their pasts become evident, Eliza realizes that she can only show her love to them by leaving them.
The Horsemaster’s Daughter is a poignant, touching tale of wounded souls learning to heal by taking the chance on love again. Throughout the story I was moved to laughter, tears and edge of my seat suspense. There was never a dull moment, which made it difficult to find a “good spot” to set the book down!
The main characters, Eliza and Hunter, are descriptively portrayed with individual personalities and characteristics. They, along with Hunter’s children, become very real to the reader over the course of the novel since they have problems and trials common to us all. Although The Horsemaster’s Daughter is a historical novel, the pain of death and mourning are topics we can all relate to in any time period or setting. Susan Wiggs does an excellent job of sweeping the reader into the challenging world of training horses and more serious topics such as slavery. I also appreciated the realistic ending to the story where everything doesn’t automatically work out and problems aren’t glossed over as if they no longer exist.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend The Horsemaster’s Daughter to any Susan Wigg’s admirer, historical fan, or romance lover in general!