Book Review: Horsefever

Author Lee Hope's adult novel explores a woman's desire to excel in eventing and the emotional turmoil it causes in her marriage.

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like the narrative technique Lee Hope uses, but the stream-of-consciousness soon drew me in. Nikki’s interior monologue rings true, and most riders can identify with her hopes, fears, frustrations and love for her horses. She has everything going for her–good horses, plenty of money and a husband, Cliff, whom she adores.

By the way, there’s plenty of steamy (but tastefully done) sex in this book, so you may want to keep it out of the hands of your horse-loving teenagers.

The mother of a grown daughter, Nikki’s not a spring chicken anymore, but she’s fit and healthy. When her husband hires a new coach for her, she seems to be on a fast track to achieving what she’s always wanted–success in eventing. Nikki is a godsend for the new coach, Gabe, who’s been out of work and aimless since a jumping accident left him paralyzed on one side. He throws himself into her training, and is soon living vicariously through her.

Into this perfect scenario steps the “green-eyed monster,” jealousy. Cliff and Gabe’s wife Carla don’t understand that the passion shared by Nikki and Gabe is for horses and competition, not each other. They also don’t understand that their suspicions and accusations are driving coach and rider closer together.

I certainly won’t spoil the story by telling you how this marital tension plays out, but I will say it’s like helplessly watching an impending train wreck.

There are also riveting moments any rider can identify with–times when things click for Nikki and her unpredictable horse, Beau, and times when there are heart-wrenching disconnects. Hope does a good job of getting into the heads of everyone, including the horses. Her knowledge of horses and eventing seems accurate, and I lay any minor errors at the feet of some non-horsey editor. I read an uncorrected proof, so those were likely caught before publication.

Bottom line, Horsefever is a good read. As reviewer Richard Hoffman put it, it’s either “the sexiest serious novel . . . or the most serious sexy novel you will ever read.” At least, I would add, in the realm of horse books. In that respect, it reminds me of the work of British author Jilly Cooper, who also knows how to steam up a tackroom.

Horsefever, by Lee Hope, is a 336-page paperback published by New River Press ( and available on Amazon for $17. (FYI, don’t confuse it with William Murray’s book by the same name, published in the 1970s.)

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