Book Review: Barbara Morgenroth's Bittersweet Farm Series

A talented young trainer arrives at Bittersweet Farm to work with two very rich--and very different--teen-aged half-sisters. Trainers don't last long at Bittersweet, but Lockie Malone is different, and things soon change for everyone.
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A talented young trainer arrives at Bittersweet Farm to work with two very rich--and very different--teen-aged half-sisters. Trainers don't last long at Bittersweet, but Lockie Malone is different, and things soon change for everyone.

The 12th book in the Bittersweet Farm Series is just out, and I can't wait to read it it. Each installment is like sitting down with an old friend to catch up on news of people you care about. In this case the people are fictional characters, but the ongoing story transports readers into the very realistic world of a working horse farm, horse events and family emotions.

A lot of people and horses come and go in the lives of principal characters Talia, Greer, Lockie and Cam, but if you start at the beginning (A very good place to start!) it will all make sense--and keep you up into the wee hours, because every book is a page-turner. Thank heavens for Kindle, which makes reading in the dark so easy!

But let me start at the beginning. . . .

It's a pleasure to run across a writer who not only knows her horses and horse sports, but also knows how to tell a good story with snappy dialogue. I liked the characters immediately. The good and bad "rich girls" is a nice twist. I get tired of the heroine being a pauper who mucks stalls for a living while the evil rich girl makes fun of her.

Bittersweet Farm # 1--Mounted--is realistic and a pleasure to read. The author has a wry humor that will have you chuckling to yourself. Talia can have anything she wants, but she asks her father for a used pickup rather than a fancy sports car. She's also quite happy with her less-than-fancy horse. She chooses to be with horses because she enjoys their company better than most people. She isn't interested in competing, and just wants to ride for fun. But life isn't easy for Talia, despite the fact that her father is wealthy. She has to live with her half-sister Greer, who is gorgeous, talented, hateful and rides only to show off and win at all costs.

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Talia is close to Jules, the young gourmet chef who works for the family. A great character, Jules remains calm while a perpetual tempest of emotions swirls around her, and the girls and their father adore her. She's less employee than part of the family.

Bittersweet Farm # 2--Joyful Spirit--The book opens with Greer in Lockie's apartment over the stables when Talia knocks on the door. Greer pretends she's with Lockie to make Talia jealous, but Talia finds him downstairs with the horses, and they set off on a trail ride so Lockie can show her his vision for the new cross country course.

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There are more changes afoot at the farm than the cross country course. Under Lockie's guidance, Greer is moving from equitation to open jumpers and Talia to dressage, which her new horse CB is adept at.Talia likes the discipline and loves learning from Lockie, but has no intention of competing ever again.

Lockie and Talia were attracted to each other from the beginning, and have fallen into an easy relationship. But Talia's protective instincts soon kick in because something's been wrong with Lockie since he arrived. A fall has left him with blinding headaches and sensitivity to light and sound. Talia's dad sends him to the best doctors--and she frets every time he gets on a horse.

Talia decides she wants to stay at the farm instead of returning to the fancy private school she attends with Greer--and her father agrees to home schooling--with many conditions. Greer continues with her temper tantrums, but Lockie remains unruffled. Talia's father is building a cottage for Lockie, so it looks like he's here to stay whether Greer likes it or not. Talia definitely likes it. 

Bittersweet Farm 3: Wingspread--Greer's mother, a shallow, self-centered snob, arrives unannounced, which makes Greer behave even worse, because she despises her mother.
Then Greer demands to be home-schooled with Talia, and the tension--and plot--thicken.

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Bittersweet Farm 4: Counterpoint-- Greer has a new jumper, Counterpoint, and there's a new guy at the farm who likes her--and keeps her off balance. Cam Rafferty is a star in the show jumping world--not to mention a heartthrob for many women on the circuit. And so begins a tension-filled--and often amusing--relationship between Cam and Greer.

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Bittersweet Farm # 5: Calling all Comets--While Lockie, Cam and Greer are in Florida for the season, Talia is left with managing the barn, and soon finds herself in the position of instructor to two adorable (yes, I said it) young pony riders. At this point in the series, I'm firmly hooked. The characters and horses are like old friends, and the message is clear--the horses always come first, and winning isn't everything. I love the sweet, whimsical relationship between Talia and Lockie--and the likeable person Greer is becoming.

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Bittersweet Farm #6--Kyff--Another new horse is added to the barn, and is handled with patience and understanding like all of the others. Greer, in Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival, does the right thing when she sees a prominent rider abusing her horse--but there's a backlash.

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Bittersweet Farm #7--Lyric Line--Lockie and Camare doing great with their jumpers on the Florida circuit. Greer is struggling with her past, but is growing as a person and becoming more likeable with every book in the series. Talia finds that the pony riders she took on "temporarily" are entrenched. She loves them--and so do readers.

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Bittersweet Farm #8: Tea Biscuit--Spring brings new horses, new challenges and old adversaries to Bittersweet Farm. Greer shows her competence in managing the charity the girls started early on, as well as organizing a horse show, but she still has a complicated love/hate relationship with Cam. Talia's 18th birthday is approaching, a turning point in her relationship with Lockie.

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Bittersweet Farm #9: Roll the Dice--The book title has a double meaning, because Lockie and Talia face decisions about the future of the farm, which may involve a gamble. The tension between Cam and Greer continues, affecting everyone at Bittersweet. Lockie tries to keep Talia from interfering, but she desperately wants to see the conflict resolved. Greer's mother, Victoria, is at her self-centered worst and causing trouble at every turn.

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Bittersweet Farm #10, Whisky Tango: Nicole, Greer's nemesis from her equitation days, is back in the picture . . . and she has her eyes on Cam, which causes turmoil in Greer's life at a time when she's growing and succeeding on so many fronts. Talia and her horse CB are becoming a fantastic team, though Talia is unaware of just how good they are. There are exciting developments on the pony front. Talia's and Greer's father, Andrew, and Greer's mother, Victoria, have surprises up their sleeves.

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Bittersweet Farm #11, Partial Stranger: With the Mirey Brook Hunt Club Horse Show just days away, Greer decides to visit the estate where she spent her childhood in England--and talks Talia into going with her. The visit gives Talia insight into why Greer became an imperious snob--though it happens much less these days. When they return home, they're immediately swept up in the long-awaited show, which takes some unexpected turns. Greer at last show off her sidesaddle skills--and exquisite outfit. Don't you love the cover?

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Bittersweet Farm #12, Available: Readerswho have beat me to reading the book say, "I didn't see that coming," which means author Barb Morgenroth hasn't run out of plot twists and turns (not that she ever will).

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Of course, readers also complain that each book is over too soon, and it takes the author too long to write the next one. Barb, you've created a voracious audience. Thanks you, and keep those books coming.


The Bittersweet Farm series and other Barbara Morgenroth books can be found on Amazon. Though written for young adults, the series has become a favorite of horse-loving women of all ages. For more information, go to barbaramorgenroth.com.

For younger readers I recommend Maggie Dana's Timber Ridge Riders series.