For Her Child by Linda Goodnight
(Silh. Rom. #1569, $4.59, G) ISBN 0-373-19569-9
**
For Her Child, Linda Goodnight's debut book for Silhouette, is a standard cowboy/secret-baby romance that breaks no new ground, unfortunately. If you haven't had your fill of this type of story, you'll likely be amused but I'm afraid this reviewer has been to the well too many times to be captivated by the standard storyline.

Kara Dean Taylor storms home to Bootlick, Texas on an annual mission to regain the Tilted T Ranch, which her father gambles away on a yearly basis. This time, she will run into trouble trying to get it back. The new other is none other than Ty Murdock, rodeo bull riding champion and Kara's former lover. Their young love affair ended in heartbreak for Kara when Ty left to chase his rodeo dreams and took up with a buckle bunny. Kara, pregnant, went to Oklahoma City where she married - and divorced - another cowboy in order to give her child a name. Now little Lane is five, and Kara is determined to regain the ranch for him.

Ty has come back to Bootlick to break the reputation foisted on him by his womanizing father that of an unfaithful cowboy who can't settle down. The Tilted T and Pete Taylor represent the only home he'd ever really known, and he's determined to make a success of the rundown ranch and ease Pete's load. When Kara shows up, full of spit and vinegar, he falls for her all over again. Soon Ty has a proposition to make. If Kara will marry him, he'll make Lane the sole heir to the ranch.

Let's start with the good stuff, which in this case was definitely Ty. Humble, sweet, and kind-hearted, he's a good cowboy hero. He tries several times to get the truth out of Kara, only to be stonewalled. His deepening relationship with little Lane is charming to watch.

Kara is the antithesis to Ty. She spends ninety percent of the book in a hissy fit, refusing to do what any grown woman would: simply ASK the guy why he never came back for her. Instead, she clings to her adolescent pride, insisting Ty is guilty as charged. When the truth of Ty's "affair" comes to light, it's exasperating because it could have been cleared up ages (and pages) ago with one pointed question. It also makes Kara look like a thirteen-year-old in a fit of High Drama. Heroines who spend their time stomping around, insisting the hero is a no-good scumbag, are neither interesting nor sympathetic. Kara's self-discovery at the end was too little and much too late.

The climax is formulaic at best. Any reader who's ever read a secret baby book will predict the characters' actions and reactions a mile away. Just once, couldn't it be played out a little differently?

There were also some problems with chronology in the book. Ty left six years earlier, but at one point he thinks about "having spent the last ten years living out of the back of a camper". He hit the road as a youngster to follow the rodeo (becoming a champion many times over, of course) but later it's mentioned that his alma mater is Texas A&M. So what is he? Rodeo bum or college boy? Perhaps these were cleared up in the final version.

For Her Child walks a well-worn path to romance. If it's a new trail for you, you may want to take a look. Otherwise, I'd advise waiting for Linda Goodnight's next release to see if the flashes of sparkle in her story can glow a bit brighter. I'm betting that, with a little more imaginative storyline, they will.

--Cathy Sova


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