Since Goodreads reading goals wait for no man nor woman either, not even on Christmas, I must complete more reviews if I am to meet my target. Naturally for today I decided to review the books about Christmas "Kit" Fielding and his twin sister Holly, born on Christmas Day.
The mid-to-late-80s, when Francis wrote the two Kit Fielding books, were when he was experimenting with the family novel, producing gems such as "Hot Money" and "Longshot," about internal family dynamics and tensions. "Break In" is also a family novel of sorts, although it's as much about feuds between families as it is feuds within families. The Fieldings have maintained a centuries-long feud with neighboring horse family the Allardyces, until Holly, whose heroine has always been Juliet, marries Bobby Allardyce. Unfortunately, Bobby's father Maynard isn't really a peace-and-goodwill kind of person, and Kit finds himself caught in the middle of all kinds of scheming.
"Break In" is marvelously constructed, with Kit's fights against the bad guys juxtaposed with his races (he's a professional jockey) and the growing attraction between him and the niece of his chief owner. All kinds of class issues, frequently a topic in Francis's novels, come up, as Kit negotiates the slightly nebulous class space he occupies--he's from an old and well-known but not rich family, and as a jockey he's the "help," but not in the same category as actual servants. So is it appropriate for him to be courting Mademoiselle de Brescou or not? How should the upper classes relate to him?
The action sequences are, as always, superbly done, although perhaps the best moment is not the action per se but when Kit is recovering from being tasered and suddenly feels life force flooding back into him, which is described with the realism of someone who knows what that's like.
Although "Break In" is, like all of Francis's novels, grounded in realism and sharply drawn realist details, it also strays into slightly supernatural territory, as Kit and Holly have an almost, or even actually, telepathic ability to communicate, something that plays a key role in the plot. The slight "supernatural" element is, like everything else, portrayed with a naturalism that makes it completely believable, and only adds to the story. Not necessarily one of Francis's most hard-hitting novels, but one of his most appealing, making for excellent holiday reading.