Is that not the raunchiest cover art you've ever seen? I had to do an inter-library request to get this book (for some reason, my well-stocked urban library system doesn't have a copy of Cooper's classic literary masterpiece), and when I asked the peppy blonde girl behind the counter to retrieve it for me, she came back waving it proudly, asking, “Is this it?!”
How I responded: “Uh, yep. That's the one. Suuuuuuper scandalous.”
How I wanted to respond: “DUDE! Could you maybe NOT call the entire library's attention to the fact that not only am I checking out a book with a hand cupping an ass on it, but I went out of my way to order said ass-cupping book from another state?!”
Now, I'm no prude. I volunteer at the library every week, processing hold requests and shelving, so I know for a fact other people have checked out far more appalling books than Riders. And that's one of the many things I love about libraries—it's all there, freely available, without judgment or eyebrow-raising. Are you a thirteen-year-old girl curious about your changing body? Are you a frat guy in your early twenties looking for instructions for brewing your own beer? Are you a middle-aged professional woman who can't wait to read the Fifty Shades trilogy? Are you pregnant with your first child and wondering what natural childbirth is like? (Pro tip from someone who knows: don't ever open a book written by a midwife. There will be pictures. Actual photographs, from which you will never recover.) Come one, come all, because the library's got all the answers and it's totally free. I still can't quite get over that.
So no, I'm not ashamed to request a romance novel set in the world of competitive show jumping from the library. I just don't really need Barbie's little sister Skipper parading it around like she's on QVC.
Despite the potential embarrassment you may suffer in acquiring this book, it's worth the risk. I know very little about horses and was actually unaware that such a sport as show jumping existed, but Cooper's book focuses equally on a second topic that is, shall we say, familiar to us all. Published in 1985 and set firmly in the '70s, Cooper's characters flounce their way from the stables to the ring to the bedroom and back again.
Cooper follows the interconnected lives of several competitive show jumpers. First is Rupert Campbell-Black, the dark and swarthy hunk who rides both his horses and his women hard. Billy Lloyd-Foxe is Rupert's best friend and partner in crime, a simple man of simple pleasures. Then there's Jake Lovell, the boy who comes from nothing but has such a gift for horse handling that he may be able to make a name for himself. Of course, Rupert and Jake have a fierce rivalry that stretches beyond the bounds of their sport and into their personal lives. If you thought only girls could be catty and jealous, these men will surprise you when their claws come out.
At just over 900 pages, the book may strain your attention span. Around page 300 I felt the plot (yes, there kind of is one) lagging and didn't know if I would make it, but it picked back up and the last half was way more interesting. Just when you think someone can't possibly make one more terrible, self-destructive choice, they do. And it's awesome.
If you enjoy the occasional soap opera, if you love sexual drama and catfights, if your summer just isn't complete without a big, sprawling, trashy novel, put in your library request for Riders now. Hopefully your library clerk will be more discreet than mine was.