Authors: Rita Mae Brown
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by American Artist, Inc.
Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Lee Gildea, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Jacket design: Victoria Allen
Jacket illustration: © Peter Malone
, Sister, is master of foxhounds of the Jefferson Hunt Club in central Virginia. She loves her hounds, her horses, and her housepets. Occasionally, she finds humans lovable, too. Strong, healthy, vibrant at seventy-two, she’s proof of the benefits of the outdoor life.
is the huntsman. He’s acquired the discipline of holding his tongue and his temper—most times. He’s wonderful with hounds. In his early forties, he’s finding his way back to love with Lorraine Rasmussen.
, a now-retired high-powered accountant is in his late sixties, and is in love with Sister Jane.
, a self-made man, moved to Virginia from Indiana. He’s egotistical, ambitious, and thinks he knows more than he does about foxhunting. But he’s also generous, intelligent, and fond of young people. His great disappointment is not being a father but he never speaks of this, especially to his wife, Marty.
is the young headmistress of Custis Hall, a prestigious prep school for young ladies.
, Tootie, is one of the brightest students Charlotte Norton has ever known. Taciturn, observant, yet capable of delivering a stinging barb, this senior shines with promise. She’s beautiful, petite, African American, and a strong rider. This fall is her first at Princeton. She’d rather stay at the kennels and work with hounds.
was the Curtis Hall class president last year. Blond, tall, lean, and drop-dead gorgeous, the kid is a natural politician. She and Tootie clash at times, but they are friends. She loves foxhunting, and her first year at Princeton.
seems overshadowed by Tootie and Val but she is highly intelligent and has a sturdy self-regard. She’s the kind of person who is quietly competent. She, too, is a good rider. Every bit as brilliant as Tootie and Val, her life took a dramatically different course with an unplanned pregnancy.
is the long-serving honorary whipper-in at JHC. Her judgment, way with hounds, knowledge of territory, and ability to ride make her a standout. Many is the huntsman who would kill to have Betty Franklin whip into him or her. She’s in her mid-forties, a mother, happily married to Bobby, and a dear, dear friend to Sister.
Walter Lungrun, M.D.
, joint-master of foxhounds, has held this position for three years. He’s learning all he can. He adores Sister, and the feeling is mutual. Their only complaint is there’s so much work to do they rarely have time for a good talk. Walter is in his late thirties. He is the result of an affair that Raymond Arnold, Sr., Jane’s husband, had with Walter’s mother. Mr. Lungrun never knew—or pretended he didn’t—and Sister didn’t know until a year ago.
, in his seventies, head of the Bancroft family, used to run a large corporation founded by his family in the mid-nineteenth century. His wife, Tedi, is one of Sister’s oldest friends. Tedi rides splendid Thoroughbreds and is always impeccably turned out, as is her surviving daughter, Sybil Fawkes, who is in her second year as an honorary whipper-in. The Bancrofts are true givers in terms of money, time, and genuine caring.
has been sheriff of the county for three years. Since he was hired from Ohio, he sometimes needs help in the labyrinthine ways of the South. He relies on Sister’s knowledge and discretion.
is in his mid-forties, widowed, and a college classmate of High Vajay. He falls in love with Virginia while visiting High and Mandy. Eventually he will fall in love again guided by his deceased wife’s spirit, but not in this book. He has made over a billion dollars in pharmaceuticals but would give it all up if he could bring his wife back. He keeps this to himself and is fantastically generous.
Tariq Al MacMillan
, a Coptic Christian from Egypt, teaches at Custis Hall. He’s in his mid-twenties, good-looking, and innovative in his Middle Eastern Studies class.
is always described as not living up to his potential. As he’s in his thirties, works in his father’s garage as well as having a delivery service, no one is holding their breath.
Binky and Milly DuCharme
are Art’s parents. They have come to terms with their son’s lack of ambition. Binky does not speak to his own brother, Alfred.
is widowed and the father of the very successful Margaret. He oversees the land of Old Paradise, the family estate, but the grand old house is in desperate need of repair which takes a lot of cash.
has more than made up for her cousin’s failures. She is an MD in Sports Medicine, well liked by all and a go-between for the brothers. She is not much in evidence in this volume.
, a jack-of-all-trades, has a can-do attitude. He’s in his mid-thirties, an outdoorsman and rugged. He has been dating Sybil Bancroft Hawkes for over a year. While he can never match the Bancroft fortune, he wants to make more money for his own satisfaction and so Sybil doesn’t think he’s a dud.
Sister and Shaker have carefully bred a balanced pack. The American foxhound blends English, French, and Irish blood, the first identifiable pack being brought here in 1650 by Robert de la Brooke of Maryland. Individual hounds had been shipped over earlier, but Brooke brought an entire pack. In 1785, General Lafayette sent his mentor and hero, George Washington, a pack of French hounds whose voices were said to sound like the bells of Moscow.
Whatever the strain, the American foxhound is highly intelligent and beautifully built, with strong sloping shoulders, powerful hips and thighs, and a nice tight foot. The whole aspect of the hound in motion is one of grace and power in the effortless covering of ground. The American hound is racier than the English hound and stands perhaps two feet at the shoulder, although size is not nearly as important as nose, drive, cry, and biddability. It is sensitive and extremely loving and has eyes that range from softest brown to gold to sky-blue. While one doesn’t often see the sky-blue eye, there is a line that contains it. The hound lives to please its master and to chase foxes.
is the strike hound, which means she often finds the scent first. She’s the dominant female in the pack and is in her sixth season.
is in his seventh season and is invaluable in teaching the younger hounds.
is the anchor hound, and she’s in her fourth season. All the other hounds trust her, and if they need direction she’ll give it.
is her littermate. He possesses tremendous drive and a fabulous nose, but he’s arrogant. He wants to be the strike hound. Cora hates him.
is also Diana and Dragon’s littermate. He lacks his brother’s brilliance, but he’s steady and smart. A hound’s name usually begins with the first letter of his mother’s name, so the
hounds are out of Delia.
is young and just about the perfect example of what a male American foxhound should be.
Sister’s horses are
, a Thoroughbred/quarter-horse cross (written TB/QH by horsemen), an intelligent gelding of eight years;
, a gray TB, eleven now, fabulously athletic and talented, who wants to go;
, a seven-year-old TB gelding who shows great promise;
, a six-year-old gelding TB, also very athletic, with great stamina and a good mind; and
, a gray TB, six years old, sixteen hands, a former steeplechaser.
Shaker’s horses come from the steeplechase circuit, so all are TBs.
Showboat, HoJo, Gunpowder
can all jump the moon, as you might expect.
Betty’s two horses are
, a tough QH who has seen it all and can do it all, and
, a TB given to her by Sorrel Buruss, a bigger and rangier horse than Betty was accustomed to riding, but she’s now used to him.
is a superb jumper, bought for the huntsman by Kasmir Barbhaiya.
, tried and true, takes care of the sheriff.
The reds can reach a height of sixteen inches and a length of forty-one inches, and they can weigh up to fifteen pounds. Obviously, since these are wild animals who do not willingly come forth to be measured and weighed, there’s more variation than the standard just cited.
are the reds. They can be haughty. A red fox has a white tip on its luxurious brush, except for Aunt Netty, who has a wisp of a white tip, for her brush is tatty.
The grays may reach fifteen inches in height and forty-four inches in length and may weigh up to fourteen pounds. The common wisdom is that grays are smaller than reds, but there are some big ones out there. Sometimes people call them slab-sided grays, because they can be reddish. They do not have a white tip on their tail but they may have a black one, as well as a black-tipped mane. Some grays are so dark as to be black.