Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emery Lee's The Highest Stakes: Review & Giveaway

From the back cover:

The Highest Stakes: He's racing to win back his country, his fortune and his one true love
Charlotte Wallace is orphaned and alone until a sympathetic stable boy takes her under his wing and teaches her everything about thoroughbred racing.  In the process, the two discover in each other a love destined to be thwarted at every turn…

Robert Devington has tried everything to persuade Charlotte’s uncle to allow them to marry. Then an ill-fated friendship, a scandal in the making, and one desperate act of folly rob them of their love and his livelihood…

Dead set on retribution, all Robert’s hopes are hanging on one small horse—his only chance to reclaim his land, his dignity, and his love, against all odds…

*          *          *

As a child, my love for books took root when I discovered Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. I bought all the books that were in print at that time, reading some of them more than once. They transported me to a world about which I knew very little, and their exciting tales thrilled me.

Years later as an adult, I discovered the works of Jane Austen and the many Austen-themed novels that are now so prevalent. Again, I was transported to another unfamiliar world, albeit a more romantic one than that of thoroughbred racing (or so I thought).

With Emery Lee’s The Highest Stakes, I find my two beloved genres almost perfectly mixed. Set in the mid-18th century (slightly predating Austen), Stakes tells of Charlotte Wallace and Robert Devington, two soul mates bound by their love of horses and each other. Like Austen’s works, they abide in a genteel society, encumbered by rules and norms that they themselves frequently would rather eschew.

Along with friends, kin and enemies, Charlotte and Robert embark on an epic journey spanning several years and more than one continent. Horseracing and breeding comprise much of the story, as does English military history. As such, there are several exciting races, duels and accounts of risky wagers gone bad. Unrequited love and misunderstanding provide many moments of tension, and an interesting twist at the novel’s conclusion provides a satisfying end.

I enjoyed Emery Lee’s debut novel very much. While written in a more modern style and a touch saucier than Jane Austen, Lee’s writing had a similar feel, excitement and tension. And like my beloved Walter Farley books, Stakes held many moments of horseracing drama. It felt very epic in scope, a grand tale with many venues and enriching characters.

I only have a couple of quibbles. First, those enriching characters. It may have been due to Lee’s writing style or just my weakness as a reader, but some of the secondary and minor characters frequently became jumbled in my mind. Second, I felt that Lee could have spent just a touch less time recounting English war history. As her bibliography evidences, she has certainly done her homework in regard to this topic, as well as all of the equine-related issues.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. I hope Lee’s work is noticed by those in Hollywood, as this movie fan would love to see this on the big screen, with possibly Natalie Portman as Charlotte. Emery’s story and characters are compelling, and it was a treat to be a part of their world. The Highest Stakes is no gamble—Be taken in, and enjoy!

*          *          *
Giveaway Contest!

If you'd like to win my ARC of The Highest Stakes, here's what to do:

  • Leave a comment below; this counts as your entry.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Saturday, May1st
  • Open to U.S. addresses only.
  • Make sure at least one posted comment includes your email address. If you'd rather not have your email posted here, you may contact me directly to give me that information after you've entered here.
  • I will compile the entries and the winners will be chosen by Random.org, so even one entry can make you a winner!
  • Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday the 2nd for your mailing information.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message! (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.

Bonus Entries

Please make note of all your bonus entries in your comment(s).  You may post separate comments or a single large comment.  Here are your bonus entry options:

  • Follow the blog by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just let me know you're following).
  • Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter (Please tell me your @UserName).
  • Tweet about this book's giveaway on Twitter.com; be sure to use an URL linking back to this blog posting in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and May 1st at 11:59pm EST.  For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username. 

That's it!  Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all the entrants!

My complimentary copy was given by Sourcebooks, with no obligation other than an honest review.



  1. Awesome review! I love books about horses too!! :)

    +1 follower
    +1 twitter follower

    inthehammockblog (at) gmail (d0t) com

    Thanks so much for the contest!

  2. Hey Laura!
    I just caught your post and wanted to drop by to say thank you for such a glowing review of THE HIGHEST STAKES.

    I loved writing this book. It played out in my mind exactly like a movie and just poured out onto the page!

    As for the big screen adaptation - I had desired to attempt a screenplay (3 part mini-series due to length and structure of the novel) with the goal of submitting to the BBC but alas, they no longer accept work from non-British writers.

    In my fantasies I had cast James McAvoy as Robert Devington, Kiera Knightly as Charlotte (She has a very "waifish" quality, but wouldn't rule out Portman), and Ioann Gruffudd as Philip Drake (LOVED him in the Horatio Hornblower series.)

    (Perhaps A&E, Showtime or HBO might be interested in giving it a go????)

    In the meantime, I hope your followers will read the print version, and moreover that they will "enjoy the ride."

    Best regards - Emery Lee

  3. Emery:

    Thanks for stopping by the blog and for your comments! Honored!

    Love your casting ideas! I hadn't thought of Keira, as she seems a bit tall, but you're right about the waifish quality.

    James McAvoy as Robert! Oh I would swoon!

    I'll keep an eye out for the production, on whatever screen it's presented. Here's hoping!


  4. Neat review - looks like a very good read!

    I am a follower, both Google and twitter...

    Bill ;-)

    billsmith2003 (at) gmail (dot) com

    Hope you'll check out my book giveaway:

  5. I'd love to win this book!


  6. I'd love to read this!!


  7. This sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance.

    I'm a loyal follower.

    I follow on Twitter @truebookaddict


  8. Look good, please enter me, I follow you on google and on twitter@mrsred49


  9. Great giveaway!

    krae991 at yahoo dot com

  10. Thank you for hosting this giveaway.


  11. The love of horses I think can carry over to the mystique of animals in general. I like books that include animals in the overall plot of a novel. Maybe, my love for animals came about because of my ridding horses when I was young with my cousins or maybe it was brought about because of my raising rabbits for the 4-H fair. When I was in High School I took care of chinchillas as a part time job. My life has been filled with animals and we now have two Chihuahuas in our later years that we adore. This book sounds like a marvelous book to read and one that I would enjoy as I love animals and history.


  12. this book looks so great, thanks for the contest!

    allison.d.mason AT gmail DOT com

  13. I am a follower via GFC.

  14. Enter me in this giveaway.

  15. I would love to win this! It sounds so good!

    teddyr66 at yahoo dot com



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