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Cowboy Comes Home by Rachel Lee
(Silh. Int.Moments #865, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07865-X
****
With chilling accuracy, Rachel Lee's newest Silhouette, Cowboy Comes Home describes the toll taken on an incest survivor who is forced to reopen her past in order to help a 13-year-old incest victim. Since the story takes place in Conard County, Wyoming, Lee fans will be familiar with many of the supporting cast.

Hugh Gallagher, aka "Cowboy" was introduced in Lost Warriors as the most stable of the war veterans who camped in the nearby mountains. All who found their way there, ravaged by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), were permitted by the town to live in peace. Hugh had recovered sufficiently and moved to town to further his dream of establishing a ranch for troubled children.

Anna Fleming is the survivor who has changed her name and moved west to settle where she is unknown. Securing a job as a church secretary, her life at the age of 30 consists of work and volunteering with the church youth group. In the entire five years she has lived in Conard County, Anna has permitted herself to trust only Sheriff Nate Tate and her boss, Rev. Dan Fromberg.

So when the Sheriff asks her to talk with Lorna Lacey, one of her youth group, Anna is quick to oblige. In an action totally out of character, Lorna, the daughter of the town dentist, has been jailed for setting fire to an empty classroom.

Anna recognizes the symptoms, the terror and the withdrawal of the child, and after the second visit (first having to confess her own dark secret to establish credibility) she manages to convince Lorna that safety lies in telling people about the wrongdoing, rather than silence.

The Sheriff arrests Dr. Lacey and the Court appoints Anna as Lorna's temporary guardian. Meanwhile Hugh has noticed Anna, become aware of her success in working with children, and sets out to convince her to work with him on his ranch.

While waiting for the trial, Anna is falling in love with Hugh, but terrified because she knows her background will not survive the checks necessary for the program he is implementing. And having suppressed the horror of her own experiences, her nightmares start returning as she tries to help Lorna.

Using Conard County as a basis for so many books, among other things, allows the author to save time creating secondary characters. This permits her to have extraordinarily well developed principal characters, lively but appropriate dialogue, and nicely constructed plots. The romance that grows between Anna and Hugh has a sweetness to it that is based on their shared PTSD. Cowboy Comes Home is not a light or fun read but a very compelling one that will stay with you for a long, long time.

--Thea Davis


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