Joanna Campbell’s world of thoroughbred racing is one of my horse novel favourites. Both the Ashleigh [Aileen] as well as the Thoroughbred [Vollblut] series (and its specials) have a special place in my heart. They’re the reason I started working on my English skills: I was way to curious to wait till the German publisher translated the books, I just had to know what was going to happen. There was a great fan page back in the days with profiles of the horses, characters, authors and tonnes and tonnes of trivia (since the books were later on written by a rotating panel of authors, the mistakes, character transformations, et al. were numerous). I spent hours translating it all. I also became so mesmerised by the world of American thoroughbred racing that I wrote my A-level research paper on the Sport of the Kings. So far, I read all 15 Ashleigh novels, 1 of the 4 special editions and 38 of the 72 Thoroughbred novels, although I own considerably more.
The following contains short but partially spoilery content summaries. Proceed with caution – if you still want to read the books. Which most of you don’t, so just ignore this.
The Ashleigh series is a spin-off of the Thoroughbred series and is set prior to the events of the first Thoroughbred novel. It’s written in a time bubble, so Ashleigh & Co. never age although they celebrate multiple Thanksgivings/Christmases/etc. Trivia: In both series, Ashleigh’s name was ‘translated’ to Aileen in the German editions, probably because no child would have known how to pronounce it. I can imagine how I’d have butchered it – along the same lines I butchered the Harry Potter names.
Lightning’s Last Hope / Lightnings letzte Hoffnung
What it sounds like: A children’s picture book about a little lightning that desperately wants to whizz across the sky and hit trees and buildings just as its older brothers and sisters and thinks it’s left behind until the storm swells up again one last time.
What it’s really about: Ashleigh discovers an abused mare (Lightning) and tries to save her before her owner works her to death (Ashleigh = Lightning’s Last Hope).
A Horse for Christmas / Ein Pferd zu Weihnachten
What it sounds like = What it’s really about, and yet it’s not quite the way you’d think it’d turn out. It’s a tearjerker, this one.
Waiting for Stardust / Warten auf Stardust
What it sounds like: Either a cute (Christmas) children’s book about a child staying up to see the mythical/magical stardust – or a non-fiction book about the time between the pulication of Stardust by Neil Gaiman and its film adaptation – or just about the adaptation in general.
What it’s really about: Ashleigh wants a horse of her own and is waiting for it to come her way (horse = Stardust).
Good-Bye, Midnight Wanderer / Kampf um Midnight / Fighting for Midnight
In this case, it would have been so funny if they had translated Midnight into German. Then, the title could have been interpreted as “Fighting at Midnight.” Ah, the quirks of languages.
What it sounds like: Definitely fantasy. I’d really love to read about the mysterious Midnight Wanderer – but the ‘good-bye’ suggest a children’s story, probably a picture book.
What it’s really about: German title + English title (spoilers, much? The English title totally gives away the outcome): The colt Midnight Wanderer battles a broken leg – and Ashleigh ultimately has to say goodbye to him because he has to be put down.
The Forbidden Stallion / Der Verlierer / The Looser
What it sounds like: Well, that depends on how dirty your mind is … let’s settle for one of those historical romances with the saucy covers – damsel in ballgown and half-naked guy – like this one, for example. No one would notice if we’d change the title on the cover. [Damn, now I have to delete the cookies because the ads want to sell me historical romance novels.] The German title’s so universal that it could be anything, really.
What it’s really about: German title + English title: One of Ashleigh’s favourite stallions looses every race he’s in. Ashleigh wants to figure out what’s wrong with him but she’s forbidden to get close to him (I can’t even remember why. I think it was a mixture of her having to study in order to pass her math class and probably Aladdin being deemed too wild for a girl her age).
A Dangerous Ride / Ein gefährlicher Ritt
What it sounds like: Well, pretty much what it is. Still, it could also be a rollercoaster, a motorcycle, a historical romance novel hunk, …
What it’s really about: Ashleigh and her best friend compete, her friend’s horse bolts, Ashleigh goes after them and manages to get to them before they end up on the highway – and that was the dangerous ride that took about 3 of the 128 pages.
Derby Day / Der Tag des Derbys
What it sounds like: Well, definitely sports. The content of your novel only depends on the sport you prefer.
What it’s really about: Duh, the Kentucky Derby. Obviously.
The Lost Foal / Das verschwundene Fohlen
What it sounds like = What it’s really about Yeah, this one’s pretty boring. I’m talking about the title. Can’t even remember what exactly happens in the book.
Holiday Homecoming / Ein Herbst voller Abschiede / An Autumn of Farewells
What it sounds like: This could be contemporary YA (I always have to think of homecoming dances), or chick lit, or whatever tearjerker you prefer: a lost dog finding its way back home just in time for the holidays or a novel set in autumn in which many people die. The latter could totally be a Lurlene McDaniel novel.
What it’s really about: German title + English title (the English titles really like to spoil all the fun): Ashleigh has to say farewell to one of her favourite horses and her best friend who’s moving away – just to come back on Thanksgiving, because the move has been cancelled.
Derby Dreams / Derby-Träume
What it sounds like = What it’s really about = basically #7 with a different stallion and problem. But in the end it’s all about the Kentucky Derby. Because American horse racing is always all about the Kentucky Derby.
Ashleigh’s Promise / Aileens Versprechen
Now we get to the novels I can’t remember … let’s see how this goes.
What it sounds like: Well, this should be straight forward, right? Ashleigh makes a promise.
What it’s really about: Hahahahahaaaaa! You totally fell for it, didn’t you? But hey, that’s ok. That’s a quirk that’s frequent in these series. So, there’s probably a promise somewhere in this book or else the German title makes no sense at all (however, it wouldn’t be the first time, a German title doesn’t make much sense. I’m looking at you, Eldest aka Der Auftrag des Ältesten). Unfortunately, I can’t remember. The English title, however, isn’t about some kind of promise, no, it’s refering to the shortened form of Majestic Promise, the horse this book is all about. The mare is “Ashleigh’s Promise”, because she’s the one who buys her, who believes in her, and who cares for her. Horse novel titles, guys …
Winter Race Camp / Das Reitcamp / The Riding Camp
What it sounds like: A good old camp. We’ve probably all been to one at least once in our lives. The English title, however, suggest some kind of winter sport … a chalet, sledge races, hot chocolates, and runny noses.
What it’s really about: A riding camp in winter that focuses on horse racing. Jealousy. Ashleigh wanting to quit riding/racing once again.
The Prize / Der Preis
What it sounds like = What it’s really about A prize is a prize. It can take a gazillion forms but in the end, it’s a prize. In this case, the prize a saddle. And of course Ashleigh and her best friend turn against each other over that piece of leather. After all, this is a horse novel and that’s the usual type of drama.
Ashleigh’s Western Challenge / Rangers letzte Chance / Ranger’s Last Chance
What it sounds like: Ashleigh was challenged to watch every imaginable western ever made. Wouldn’t that be a fun novel? Optionally: an alcoholic ranger has one last chance to prove he can do his job.
What it’s really about: Ashleigh visits family in the West, has to prove that her cousin’s horse Ranger is indeed a good race horse and that she’s also an expert western rider. There’s really nothing she can’t do.
Stardust’s Foal / Stardusts Fohlen
What it sounds like: Now the mythical/magical Stardust from #3 has a foal – probably made of stardust! Come on, that would make a really sweet children’s picture book. I can already see it.
What it’s really about: Well, Stardust’s foal. Plus a lot of heartache and heartbreak and I’m still mad the German edition got a different cover. The English one‘s so devastating (aka what the story’s about) and the German’s all stars and butterflies (definitely NOT what the story’s about).