Dressage circuit champion Debby Buck DeJonge’s novels are set in the glammy world of fancy horse competitions. Lead Horse and Catch Rider are the first two books in a trilogy. The third, Safe Saddle, is in the works. The tales offer a glimpse into a stratum of society so artfully lambasted by Jane Austen 200 years ago, that to put pen to paper to critique the modern day “landed gentry” one better have a hook, a new angle with which to draw in the reader. Not to worry, DeJonge does. She’s interwoven sexy escapades throughout, with enough erotic innuendos to make even Anne-Marie Villefranche blush.
DeJonge grew up in Rockford, Michigan. Impressively, she put herself through college waiting tables and worked as a concierge at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Not exactly a path one would expect of the daughter of country club owners. She is also an avid golfer. Along with dressage, it is one of her passions. Health and nutrition is another. In a former incarnation she was the right-hand woman to her husband-doctor, the late Dr. Robert DeJonge. The pair ran an anti-aging clinic and spoke at international conferences, rubbing shoulders with the likes of other wellness champions in the complementary medicine space, not the least of whom included eighties icon Suzanne Somers (acclaimed author and actress known for her role as Chrissy Snow on the sitcom Three’s Company).
I went to see DeJonge on the cold October day after Somers’s passing. The grief was new. We quelled it with a bottle of Veuve in a little octagonal out-building on her lakefront property in Ada, a “she shed” she refers to as the fox den. I didn’t know DeJonge before the meeting, nor did I know she’d known Somers, or that I’d be joining in the mourning of Chrissy Snow. I’d come to talk about a different Chrissy… Van Foque-Trot, the arch nemesis to her novels’ protagonist Candy Clark, who leads a charmed life bopping between Palm Beach and her Midwest base of Boutique Town.
Lead Horse and Catch Rider offer a no-holds-barred account of how mice play while the cat’s away, and waxes lyrical on the benefits of living on a large estate with a second driveway when it comes to extramarital trysts. Apparently, having a second driveway is a big boon to the bed-hoppers of Boutique Town, offering an alternate escape route for lovers who’re still lingering when the old man’s heading up driveway number one. While the smutty shenanigans may seem a tad embellished for the sake of entertainment, the window into the world of dressage competitions is clear and smacks of sincere authenticity.
“Dressage is like ballet, but on horseback,” DeJonge said and then mused about how she shocked people in the dressage community (who oftentimes spend big money on high priced steeds to garner their gold medals) by turning her horse, a pasture pet named Pax (now 27 years old), into a champion.
“The grace and discipline of dressage riding incorporate intricate movements such as the center pirouette, in which the horse literally canters in place and then performs a 360-degree turn in four footfalls of perfect harmony. The movement can emulate a winged horse skipping to heaven with each muscle and movement in perfect simpatico,” writes DeJonge in Lead Horse.
The books excel past pedantic, albeit poetic, descriptions of pony prancing and clandestine encounters. DeJonge’s prose is packed with colorful chronicles, marvelous metaphors, and artful alliteration, as well as the requisite number of cheeky jabs at the ultra-privileged inhabitants of her world. This elevates the stories from mere pulp tales to textual analyses of DeJonge’s experience of the here and now. Plus, the books are just a rollicking good read– entertaining escapism for the hoi polloi.
Highest recommendation. Jump on and go along for the ride!