Highest Stakes is an historical fiction novel with some very strong romantic elements. It was a very interesting mix of romance, class struggle, friendships, and (as you can tell from the cover) horse racing. All these aspects mix in the form of Robert and his pursuit of his employer's daughter, Charlotte. When her guardians refuse to allow him to marry her, he sets off to prove he is more than just a worker - he joins the King's Horse. This is where he befriends Drake, the second son of an Earl. The lives of these three people intertwine in an amazing way. The way their individual stories combined to create this world far exceeded my expectations.
While Robert's story seems to be the main focus, we get to experience life from the point of view of all three characters. It gives enlightenment as to their actions, which at times seems to run counter to logic, but you come to understand their innermost desires and code by watching them make the tough decisions. A lot of these decisions center around the popular sport of horse racing - of which Robert is an expert in both breeding and riding. In fact, he bets many life altering decisions on the outcome of horse races, including being able to wed the love of his life, Charlotte.
Having worked at a stable when I was in junior high and loving horses my whole life, I thoroughly enjoyed the horse aspect of the story. A few of the horses almost become main characters, especially Mars and Amoret, and you really get to know their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. I enjoyed their part of the story just as much as I enjoyed the romance and the people.
The plot twists and turns a lot so don't ever be surprised at anything that happens. In the end there is a bit of a happily ever after - for at least some people. You can tell there is more to the story and book two is the continuation of the story of this group of people, their friends and family.