After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.
Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.
Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family.
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.
Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.
Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside. It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.
The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.
The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.
The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.
As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.
The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series
I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.
When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.
After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again and fulfil a lifelong dream!
There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.
Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a bit of a worrier!
In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story. Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents. Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her dear friends.
The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!
I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.
For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.
As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover of a wonderful book.”
Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.
In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.
Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.
Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent in the first book too.
Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.
Tabby’s Big Year
The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.
After the disappearance of her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother, are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family at odds with each other.
While Tabby battles her feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a premature end at the knacker’s yard.
Tabby also has the responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.
By her side are her two best friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could have imagined.
It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?
Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda.
Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage.
The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments!
Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had.
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.