*I was given a free copy of the book for an honest review. All thoughts about the book are my own. I was not paid by the publisher or the author for this review*
Published: Dec 13, 2013
I didn’t realize it until I was a few chapters in, but Studs and Stilettos is a sequel to a book I read last year by the same author. Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash was an excellent book, and S&S was no different.
In this book, we meet Emily (Jenna’s little sister from T&TT). She’s trying to make her way in the acting world to prove to Jenna that she isn’t a complete screw up. Jenna and her husband Burke have footed the bill for Emily’s acting classes and have helped her out when she was strapped for cash in the past when her acting gigs didn’t turn out the way she wanted. You can tell right away that Emily hates asking for help, but she’s convinced herself that if she just does this “one more gig” she’ll make it big and prove to her sister that she can do it.
For all of her bravado, Emily is pretty insecure. She hides behind a mask of makeup and pretty, but expensive, clothes. Part of that is due to her fathers verbal abuse as a child. It wasn’t touched on as much in this book as it was in T&TT, but it explained a little about why Em felt the way she did. Things really start looking bad for Em after she wrecks her car. She’s strapped for cash (thankfully not hurt…but her car is) and is reluctant to ask Jenna for more help. Every time she starts to broach the subject, waves of disapproval are felt coming from her sister. Instead, she speaks to her “agent” about getting more gigs. I put agent in quotes because her agent lady is so not helpful. You can feel the indifference coming from the agent lady. She doesn’t care one way or another if Em makes it or not. She’s got plenty of other talent that will get parts…which will put money in her pocket. Who cares if one falls by the wayside?
Luckily, she hears about a movie being shot a few hours from her apartment, and they need extra background people. The only thing standing in Em’s way is getting there. The movie that is being shot is about a racehorse named Reckless and his missing trainer, Tracey. Reckless is being filmed in the same location that the horse actually lived and trained. Tracey disappeared before Reckless was supposed to compete in the Kentucky Derby, but her disappearance distressed the stallion and he was unable to complete the Derby. A semi sleepless night and a long bus ride later finds Emily on a movie set completely unprepared. She’s slightly mocked by Judith (another extra) for her lack of knowledge about the movie that is being filmed. I didn’t like Judith at first. She didn’t come off as someone that knew how to relax and have a good time. She was very strict about who she and Em should and shouldn’t talk to and where they should and shouldn’t go. Which, since Judith did her homework about the movie, and had been an extra on a movie before (so she had experience with this kind of thing) was actually a good thing. It still took me until almost the middle of the book to warm up to Judith.
A little while later, we meet Dan. He’s the head horse trainer for the movie and he’s kind of a big deal. He has a serious thing against actresses and so when he meets Emily, and learns that she wants to be an actress and is on set as an extra, he keeps his distance. That of course, doesn’t last for too long. Emily fibs and says that she has previous experience working with horses as a desperate attempt to find some more time on set to gain some more money, after learning she wasn’t asked back to be an extra the following day. She’s hired by Dan to do some work with the horses and quickly earns the disapproval from Dan’s assistant, Lizzie. It’s very clear from the time that I met Lizzie that she held a torch for Dan, but it was completely one sided. On one hand, I felt for her, because I know how that can suck… to have feelings for someone and they’re not returned. But on the other hand, I also wanted to shake Lizzie a little bit for her mistreatment of Emily, who was never (besides some light verbal parring in the beginning) mean to Lizzie.
Emily starts staying in the barn on the opposite side of the property because she has no extra cash for the hotel room that is in town, and the rooms that are available are limited. She spends a couple of nights sleeping in a horse stall on some bales of hay until Dan finds out. The first night that he finds her, he sticks around to keep watch to make sure nothing happens to her. He’s then able to arrange for her to stay in the vacant and abandoned apartment over the same barn… which just so happened to belong to Tracey, the missing horse trainer. While working and staying in the barn Emily meets Billy, the slightly disabled older man that lives on the property in a little run down house. It was more like a shack, to be honest. Billy has some dementia and is a bit of a hoarder.
I was very happy when Dan and Emily finally got together, and then I immediately wanted to strangle Dan. He immediately started pushing Em away the next morning, putting a barrier between them. He doesn’t like actresses, but he mentions to Em that he has a director friend that would give her an audition for his movie…which was in a different location. Ruude. Understandably, Em is hurt and confused because she saw things going differently for them.
She tries to ask for more barn work with the horses to earn some extra money, but Dan shoots down that plan…and then offers to give her some money himself. Which was the wrong thing to do. What woman wants to be offered money after sleeping with a guy? Emily was suitably offended, as was I. Emily manages to find a way to get another shot at being an extra, so she’s allowed to stick around on set. She gets cast to be in a scene with a runaway horse. After the scene is over, Dan explodes with anger that she was showing off for the camera probably in hopes of getting noticed by the directorial team. He had set a very clear amount of space that had needed to be between the horse and the extra (who he had no idea would be Emily), but Emily was told by the AD (Assistant Director) to move closer so she did… because she didn’t know that the AD was breaking Dan’s safety rule. Of course, Dan doesn’t know that she was just following directions until later (and apologizes) so I could understand his anger.
It takes a day or two, but Dan finally asks Emily to stay with him until filming is completed. I did a happy dance. About damn time, Danny boy. Emily is thrilled, of course. I would have been too. It seemed like Dan was finally changing his mind against being close to actresses.
And then Billy dies. I won’t say how because there needs to be SOME things I don’t like…spoil for someone that wants to read the book… but poor Billy dies. Judith and Emily are convinced that SOMEONE on the property had something to do with Tracey’s disappearance (maybe Billy? Maybe the owner of Reckless? [He apparently was having an affair with Tracey before she poofed] NOBODY KNOWS) so they start doing some digging around to see if they can discover anything. Before Billy died, they found a duffle bag in his house with old horse paraphernalia from Reckless’s racing days. Billy gave Emily a hat…which freaks out the owner dude of Reckless (Mr. Hamilton) out when he sees it. Because of his freakout… he’s put on both Judith and Em’s list of suspicious people.
Because of all of the hoopla on set following Billy’s death, both Judith and Emily are given slightly bigger roles on set to keep them around. Judith is thrilled (she’s wanted a speaking role…and it will allow her to keep poking around about Tracey), and Em isn’t sure how she feels. The money is a good thing, but she’s much rather just work with the horses… and be with Dan.
A family emergency then drags Emily home away from the set. Because our girl has done some serious growing while she’s been on set, she doesn’t give much thought to leaving the set when she has a shoot the next morning. She’s got things at home she needs to be there for, and so she goes. Since it’s such an emergency, and she’s in such a hurry, she doesn’t have really any time to let Dan know what’s going on…she just disappears. The family emergency gets resolved fairly quickly (thanks to Emily coming home) and she’s finally able to get word to Dan about what happened and that she’s coming back.
Emily learns that her shoot was rescheduled (thank lawd) and she rushes back. When she rushes back, she’s asked by Judith to meet her at the little barn on the other side of the property she’d been staying in… because Judith think’s she’s found something. Emily rushes to the barn and meets Judith, but they’re both confronted by Tracey’s killer. The person that ended up being the killer totally took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it to be who it was. The girls are in some serious danger, but some quick thinking on the part of Emily and one of the horses saves them. And then of course, Dan arrives to help finish saving the day.
Dan and Emily confess their love for each other –FINALLY– and then they live happily ever after.
This book had the romance that I love , a mystery I wasn’t expecting and some plot twists that kept me guessing. Bev Petterson’s writing style is amazing and I’ll definitely be looking to read her other work. I would definitely recommend this book to other people.