Jilly Cooper's latest horsey saga, about a meek widow called Etta who nurses a mutilated filly back to racing success, falls at the first fence. Jump! lacks the romance and jodhpur-ripping raunchiness of previous instalments of the Rutshire Chronicles, opting instead for grotesque innuendoes and a disturbing teen gang-rape.
Cooper's characters are always thin; here they're one-dimensional, a parade of grumpy chauvinists and bumbling, lust-filled pensioners. Most annoying is Etta, who spends the novel sobbing, apologising and letting her children walk all over her. The virile cad Rupert Campbell-Black makes an appearance, but even that is small compensation for the dreadful prose: weeping willows are compared to blondes washing their hair and at least one scene takes place among "sheep-coloured fields scattered with sheep". In fact, animals feature heavily. A mischievous goat is named after the critic Anne Chisholm, who wrote a disparaging review of Rivals in 1988. Expect to find more reviewers among the fauna in Cooper's next outing.