Review: “Raising the Bar” by Leigh Dillon

TITLE: Raising the Bar
AUTHOR: Leigh Dillon
SERIES: States of Love
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Brooke Albrecht
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
LENGTH: 91 pages
RELEASE DATE: September 7, 2018
PRICE: $3.99 – e-book


Destin Bellingham has inherited a problem. Thanks to his late playboy father, Destin faces putting a For Sale sign on his family’s historic horse farm. Getting his talented stallion, Black Sambuca, into the Grand Prix show ring would put Bellmeade back on the map—if only someone could make “Sam” behave like a show horse.
Disgraced top rider Tonio Benedetto has his own problems, but he can work magic with difficult jumpers, so Destin hires him despite his bad-boy reputation. The street-smart, openly gay loudmouth from Miami and the closeted, buttoned-down son of Old Dominion Virginia make a rocky pairing, but time is running out to save Bellmeade from bankruptcy.
Opposites attract, sparks of tension grow into flames of passion. But if Tonio fails to tame Sam, will true love become a lost cause too?
States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Raising the Bar by Leigh Dillon is part of Dreamspinner’s States of Love series. This book takes place in Virginia. I liked the storyline and the flow of the book. The book is only ninety-one pages long, so it’s a nice quick read, perfect for relaxing when you only have a couple of hours. Definitely recommended for people who enjoy opposites-attract storyline and problem show jumper horses. I happen to like both of those characteristics in a story, and I did enjoy reading this book. My only disappointment in the story is that I wish the author had stated what kind of horse Black Sambuca is. I would have liked to have known if he was a pure breed horse or a cross. Although since they’re planning to breed him, I would assume that he was a pureblood. But the author doesn’t mention what kind of horses the Bellingham’s were breeding. It would have helped with my visualization of what the horses on the farm looked like.

I liked Destin Bellingham. He’s inherited the family farm when his playboy father dies suddenly. Moving back from Boston, Destin finds that the family farm is about to go bankrupt. Destin may have grown up on the farm, but he’s out of his element trying to keep Bellmeade afloat. His only hope of putting Bellmeade back on the map, getting back their sponsors and saving the farm is his incredibly talented stallion, Black Sambuca. However, he first has to find somebody crazy enough to ride the powerful horse. I would have liked Destin more if he’d been a little more confident in his abilities. He grew up on this farm, but he acts like he has no idea how to run it or what needs to be done to keep it afloat. Tonio even mentions a lot of things that can be done to help keep them afloat while getting Sam where he needs to be in his jumping career but Destin isn’t willing to do any of them.

I really liked Tonio Benedetto. He’s on the smaller side with a wiry build, but he has a lot of personality. He also has an alcohol problem which he’s dealing with. For Tonio, alcohol makes him belligerent and for Destin, it’s almost a deal breaker after he takes Tonio to dinner on the first night that Tonio comes to evaluate Black Sambuca. But I liked how Tonio realizes that he messed up and promises that it won’t happen again. I also liked that Tonio isn’t willing to give up on Black Sambuca. I also liked the chemistry between Tonio and Destin. He compliments Destin in areas where he lacks experience.

Overall Raising the Bar is a cute, fun, short novella about a show jumper rider and a show jumper breeder and owner and a black stallion that is too smart for his own good.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

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