The Sport of Baronets (Romance of the Turf #0.5) by Theresa Romain

The Sport of Baronets
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The lives of Sir Bartlett Crosby and Hannah Chandler have been marked by fierce competition between their elite families…the perfect breeding ground for a mutual attraction neither can deny.

Bart hopes to conquer “the turf” through victory in a much-touted match. Should his heavily-favored colt win, the Crosby reputation and fortunes would be revived. Bart’s plan seems poised for success until the lovely Hannah Chandler, daughter of a noted rival trainer, turns up claiming ownership of the colt. When Hannah insists on claiming her purchase, the prize colt disappears from Bart’s stable. Theft or treachery? As Hannah and Bart rush to solve the mystery before race time, they uncover a scandalous truth about their families’ pasts-a truth that has the potential to either destroy both their futures, or to guide them to a love they never imagined.

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Newmarket, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Sara

If I had to pick a single word to describe The Sport of Baronets it would be “adorable”. The story is sweet, there are no major hang-ups to the central relationship and I genuinely enjoyed the main characters. Theresa Romain couldn’t have picked a better way to introduce her new series to a potential reader.

Horseracing is the industry for the community of Newmarket and has been the lifeblood to the Crosby and Chandler families for generations. With a longstanding competition between stables, the ultimate test for their breeding program is the annual Two Thousand Guineas Stakes. This year Sir Bartlett Crosby has put all of his hopes of renewing the family fortunes on his prized colt, Golden Barb. When Hannah Chandler, youngest daughter of his stiffest competition, claims that she’s bought the horse right from under him, Bart is naturally shocked and angry at the presumption. His feelings quickly move to shock and confusion when the horse is stolen right from his own stables by a trusted groom.

Willing to put their suspicions of the other aside for the sake of the welfare of the colt, Hannah and Bart team up to investigate the theft by using their knowledge of the racing community. Their partnership digs deeper into the histories of their families when it’s discovered that the horse’s true ownership is tied to more than a bill of sale. Spending so much time together in close contact gives Hannah a chance to question Bart about life outside of their village and realize that he’s not quite the calculating devil her father paints him. For Bart, learning more about Hannah’s interests in both racing and her future allows him to confide some of his own dreams and fears. As the race draws closer and the mystery of the horse’s disappearance gets shadier, they both find that what is most important to them has changed significantly.

The feud between the Crosby and Chandler families isn’t quite the next Montagues vs. Capulets but it was a great starting point to put Bart and Hannah at odds without needing too much backstory. Once they begin working with each other it’s quickly understood that they’ve been told more about the other family’s treachery without having experienced it themselves. It was wonderful to be inside both of their minds as they take a closer look at that longstanding rivalry and figure out if it’s even meaningful to them in their current circumstances. As Bart and Hannah become more informal with each other the stigmas of their surnames are set aside to allow them to just be comfortable with one another. From there, attraction and infatuation play their roles to get Bart and Hannah talking about more than a missing horse.

There is something so charming about Bart and Hannah’s relationship. From the moment they meet each other in his stables their teasing and witty dialog just zings through the chemistry they have together. Hannah’s desire to become independent plays well against Bart’s need to prove himself within their community. They have both put all of their dreams on the line in the form of one racehorse and that almost shared dream allows them to confide in one another and open up, where their families would have had them working to destroy that dream. I loved that the move from rivals to friends to more grows organically, with their physical relations more in line with what would have been comfortable for a woman of Hannah’s upbringing. It’s just enough for them to realize they are compatible with each other on many levels.

Ms. Romain packs quite a bit of set-up for her Romancing the Turf series into the story but I never felt I was being hit over the head with the details. Events open up on the eve of a major racing event and through Bart and Hannah’s investigation into the missing colt we get to meet the players within the racing community. Through Hannah we learn about her siblings, one of which is the hero of the first full length book, and their own ties to the Jockey Club or Newmarket stables. We even get a taste of just how important horse racing had become to the upper classes and just how devious some could be to profit from it. It’s a tall order to ask any novella to launch the next three to four stories, but after finishing The Sport of Baronets I’m already eager to jump back into this world for more.

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