The most grueling challenge of Raine Smith's equestrian career looms before her—the Olympic Games. Little does she realize that she's about to face greater perils in the arms of a stranger than she's ever found on the back of her horse.
Cord Elliot is a man trained to deflect disaster and his mission is to ensure that Raine Smith remains untouched by sudden gunfire at the Summer Games. Yet from the moment Raine Meets Cord's ice-blue glance, she knows he's more hazardous to her heart than a sniper's bullet. Falling for a man who answers to the call of intrigue and holds secrets that can never be shared is to endure the broken promises, unexplained absences, and constant danger that come with his profession. But in the fiery passion of irresistible love, a summer to remember seems worth any risk.
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About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell has more than eighty titles published to date with over twenty-four million copies of her books in print. She lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with her husband, with whom she writes novels under a pseudonym. Her favorite activity is exploring the Western United States to find the landscapes that speak to her soul and inspire her writing.
Date of Birth:April 5, 1944
Place of Birth:Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Education:B. A., University of California, 1966
Read an Excerpt
Night Ride Home
By Barbara Esstman
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Barbara Esstman
All right reserved.
My brother Simon died with his eyes open, staring blue into the sky. Out of the corner of my eye I had seen him fall, but at first when I turned I thought he was joking, splayed out like a snow angel in the grass. No blood, no marks on his body. I didn't believe he could be hurt, let alone dead. My mother's mare, Zad, the gray Arab he had been riding, turned back, nuzzled his hand, and snorted. Then the morning pulled tight and held so quiet that I could hear the horses breathe and shift and rustle.
"Simon," I said.
My little gelding tossed its head and mouthed the bit.
"Simon," I said again, angry that he would frighten me. It would be just like Simon to pretend for a second that something was wrong, just to get me to laugh in relief a minute later. Then I went sick deep in my belly that this might not be a trick.
"Simon, stop it," I said.
When he wouldn't answer, I dismounted but stayed a few steps away, afraid that he would leap at me or grab my hand. When I finally worked up the nerve, the warmth of his skin made me jerk back. His head rolled sideways as if he had turned to tell me something.
I knew in that instant he was dead. I mounted and kicked the bay hard, riding low over its neck withmy legs banging and its sides lathering. I could not find its rhythm and gripped the edge of the saddle for balance. What I thought about then was not that I might be thrown and killed, as apparently had happened to Simon, but that my fingers pressed between the blanket and ridge of the horse's back were warm in that space between its shoulders.
The day broke into odd pieces: Black mane whipping and green grass blurring. The stripes of the saddle blanket, and the bright, hot air like a solid through which I was only dreaming I made my slow, thick way. And always Simon's blue eyes staring down from the sky and up from the ground and out from inside me.
When I came galloping up from the low fields with Zad trailing behind the way she always followed like a dog, my mother, Nora, stood up from the rosebushes she was pruning, her hand shading her eyes. Then she ran, her head back and fists pumping like a sprinter. She got to the gate before I could unfunible the latch and stood with her hands against the bay's rump and withers as if trapping me in her arms for just long enough to see if I was all right.
"Where's Simon?" she asked. "Did Zad throw him?"
I nodded yes, and she grabbed for Zad's reins. As she mounted, one foot in the stirrup, Zad turned in an excited circle around her.
"Get help." She slapped the mare's haunches to knock it out of its turning and threw her leg over its back.
I watched until she disappeared down the trail at the edge of the pasture. Then I left the gelding in the paddock and ran to the house to call my father, Neal, at work, and the feedstore, where Ozzie Kline, the hired man, had gone. My voice was shaking so I could hardly give the operator the numbers or explain clearly when I got through.
"Stop blubbering, Gea," my father shouted. "Is Simon hurt?"
"Yes," I told him, afraid to say more and make it certain.
Ozzie arrived at the same time as my father with the doctor, driving fast down the lane one behind the other. I'd saddled each a horse. My father hesitated a second before mounting his, but he followed silently as I led the men down the bluff. I rode at a fast trot down the middle of the trail so none of them, especially Ozzie Kline, could come even with me. As we came out past the tree line, I could see my mother as she leaned over Simon, her body shielding his. I could only think of a photograph I'd seen of a Civil War battlefield, with bodies arranged like frozen dancers in beaten-down grass, arms flung out and backs arched against the sky.
The men rode past me, and I reined in the bay. I wouldn't go near Simon, though I watched the doctor pass his hands over the eyes to close them. I turned my horse to face the river, hidden down the slope of its banks at the edge of the pasture, my back to the men, whose voices sounded like the baying and yelping of pack dogs.
But I had already seen, too much and remembered too clearly: Simon and I on our way to the river to see how high the last rains had brought it and how it was leaking over its channel into the lowest spots of the bottoms land. Simon asking questions I didn't want to know the answer to and then staring up at me from the grass.
My father had told my mother that this year the water would reach the house and make us sorry we lived on the floodplain between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. He'd also told her not to let Simon ride Zad, that she was too spirited. But my mother didn't listen any more than Simon to what she didn't want to hear.
My father was right about Simon riding Zad, but for the wrong reasons. It was not Zad's fault. She had stumbled over the rock and slid on the wet ground. I'd heard her hoof strike with a hollow ring and turned just in time to see her knees bend as if she was dropping to prayer. It wasn't her fault, but Simon's for riding with the reins loose and one knee up on the saddle, even after I'd warned him that the trail was slippery.
Excerpted from Night Ride Home by Barbara Esstman Copyright © 2006 by Barbara Esstman. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This
In this richly layered love story, Barbara Esstman reminds us of the power of first attachments, and the peril of leaving them behind. -- Author of National Book Award-winner Ship Fever
There are not many wonderful American love stories, but Barbara Esstman's Night Ride Home is one of them. -- Author of The Visiting Physician.
"An extraordinary, beautiful, and original love story presented in such a way as to guarantee an unforgettable reading experience...This masterful achievement by a relative newcomer heralds a new writing sensation for the twenty-first century."
"Simply and wonderfully told."
"A gripping novel about love, loss, and betrayal... I highly recommend Night Ride Home. Nora will linger in your thoughts for a long time to come."
Reading Group Guide
Set in a small town outside of St. Louis shortly after World War II, Night Ride Home is the story of a family coming to terms with the death of its eldest child, Simon. Simon's mother Nora boards and trains horses on a farm inherited from her grandmother, though Nora's husband Neal resents her passion for them. After Simon is killed in a riding accident, Neal shoots the horse that Simon was riding. The horse was Nora's favorite--a beautiful and spirited Arabian. Neal then sends the rest of the horses away, and tries to sell the farm. When Nora refuses to leave, Neal moves to Chicago and takes their daughter Clea with him. Neal seeks to define the life Nora will take up in the wake of Simon's death. But another man, Nora's teenage love, Ozzie, returns to the farm in an attempt to help Nora piece together a life of her own choosing.
In five alternating voices, Night Ride Home examines both the bitter grief and the binding love of the extended Mahler family. Neal's voice rationalizes his desire to control his family. Nora's voice stumbles through the maze of her sorrow. Clea, the daughter, walks a fine line between her parents. Nora's mother, Maggie, examines decisions made in her own her life. And, finally, the ranch hand Ozzie opens his battle-weary heart to love.
Topics for Discussion
1. Simon Mahler's grandmother Maggie laments: "A child should not die before his parents. A terrible disorder was at large in the world." But Simon's death creates a "disorder" that goes beyond the tragedy inherent in the loss of a child. In many ways, Simon was the hub that connected the characters who narrate the novel. What didSimon mean to the other characters?
2. The novel reveals a variety of responses to grief. The townspeople admire Neal for his restrained response to Simon's death, and shake their heads at Nora's "hysterics." But experts tell us that an emotional response to loss is a normal, healthy response. Contrast how Neal and Nora respond to Simon's death. Are there "right" and "wrong" ways to grieve? What are they?
3. When the tragedy occurs, Clea is a girl on the brink of becoming a woman. She retreats to her room and both literally and figuratively attempts to disappear. What has been modeled for her by the women in her life? Does she repeat or rebel against what she has seen?
4. While some experts contend that electroshock therapy has been used effectively to control depression, Esstman's research revealed that shock therapy was also used during the time period of Night Right Home on women deemed too independent by their husbands. What do you think was behind Neal's decision to subject Nora to shock therapy--a desire to help Nora or to subdue her independence? What responses to "undesirable behavior" occur today?
5. Ozzie was wounded in W.W.II and spent years wandering. He tells us that he "had dreams a lot, about dead men that I believed I could have saved." Today we might say that a veteran like Ozzie suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. How does the war appear to have affected Ozzie in ways of which even he is not aware?
6. Farm life is tied closely to the natural cycle of the seasons. The four sections of the novel correspond to the four seasons--spring through winter. What happens in each season? Do the events of each season reflect our common notions of spring, summer, fall and winter?
7. Late in the novel, Nora breaks down in Ozzie's truck after he has brought her to see an Arabian filly, Malaak. Why does Ozzie bring her back to talk to the filly's owner? What is he asking her to do? How is this the turning point of the novel for Nora?
8. Quotations from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda precede each section of the book. How do the epigraphs reflect the events and the themes of the novel?
9. Five characters take turns narrating the chapters of this book. Esstman has said that these are "all characters who have buried part of the truth." What do various characters see that others have "buried"? How would this novel be changed if it had a single narrator?
About the Author
Barbara Esstman was born in Carroll, Iowa, and grew up in St. Charles, Missouri. Like her character Nora in Night Ride Home, Esstman broke off a relationship at age nineteen to a young man who went off to war. Decades after her former boyfriend returned from Vietnam, Esstman reconnected with him. Much of her character Ozzie--his love of horses, his battle scars, and his long silence--Esstman says she learned from his real-life model. The book's dedication, "To 'Naldo from Rosie," refers to this relationship. "The novel," says Esstman, "is true in the deepest sense, though Oz and Nora are invented out of air and exist on a farm that never was."
After graduating from St. Louis University, Esstman taught high school English. During the years that her three children were young, she left teaching and the family moved frequently. For the last 15 years, Esstman has lived outside Washington, DC in Oakton, Virginia. Today she teaches occasionally but devotes most of her time to writing. Her three children come home often and fill the house with friends and pets.
Esstman's first novel, The Other Anna, was published in 1993 and was adapted for a television movie, Secrets. She is now at work on her third novel.
A Note from the Author:
The first image of what would become Night Ride Home was of a woman very alone in the center of Missouri farmland with something of death around her. I didn't know her, nor why she was paralyzed by grieving. I wouldn't suspect for two years that she might fall in love. But I did recognize the place: St. Charles, the small town outside of St. Louis where I grew up. The town of St. Charles was transformed into the place of the novel, Lacote--built on low hills along the Missouri River and surrounded by farmland, much of which was on flood plain. One of my earliest and most powerful memories is standing with my father on a day in 1953 when the river was so high that it overran the river's steep bank.
Rivers and floods, whether real or imagined, shape those people who live with them. While some humans are arrogant enough to believe they can control whatever they put their minds to, floods give a lesson in humility and respect for forces greater than our own.
When the land begins to reappear after a flood, we see it piece by piece, the way we do the parts of an answer to a problem we are working out. Or the scenes of a novel being written. Nora, the woman in Night Ride Home, has to try to rebuild her life bit by bit after the death of her son, a death she can no more stop than the Missouri River that floods her land.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought this was a good book. The romance happens too fast-but the book's redeemed by the incredible writing of the Olympic compititon,I felt like I was riding along with Raine!
Editorial review is for a different book
Normally I love E. Lowell's books and can't wait for the next one to come out, but Remember Summer was a disappointment. Dull, boring and unbelievable.
My first foray into romance novels in 20 years. The 'plot' was shallow as were the characters. Only redeeming value was the steamy intimacy. Not remotely believable as a love relationship.