Cowboy Dad by Robin Nicholas
(Silh. Rom. #1327, $3.50, G) ISBN 0-373-19327-0
Imagine yourself watching a foreign film without subtitles, and that is comparable to the experience you will have when you read this book. You are able to observe the characters as they go through each daily task, but you are unable to get in their heads enough to understand the causes for their actions or the depths of their emotions.

We are watching as Hannah Reeves, the mother of Justin, age 4, attends a rodeo in Greeley looking for her ex-husband, Travis. Hannah is there to collect back child support and to tell Travis she is pregnant with their second child. Travis is too busy flirting with the "buckle bunnies" to talk with her or Justin. Hannah refuses to use the contempt procedures of the courts to assist her in the collection process. Since Travis knows this… he drifts off to another rodeo without giving Hannah the money she needs.

Devin Bartlett and his 12-year-old son C.J. are also attending the rodeo and Devin is looking for Travis as well. Seems Travis failed to pay Devin for the last horse he bought from him. The horse is at the ranch Hannah was awarded in the divorce settlement. Desperately needing money, Hannah had planned to sell the horse. She doesn't want to believe Devin still owns it.

Devin shows up at Hannah's ranch with papers which prove his ownership of the horse. He agrees to lease her barns and facilities to train horses. Devin and C.J. will live in the bunkhouse. C. J quickly resents Hannah, but befriends Justin. His mother, Devin's ex-wife, is a barrel racer and too involved in rodeo life to remember C. J.

In a way, C.J. is the most important character in the book because his angst is well portrayed in his reactions to his mother's constant rejections. It impacts his relationship with Hannah, Justin, Devin and a neighborhood tomboy. Because of this, he almost becomes the focus of the story.

The romance between Devin and Hannah gradually matures but it's done without the benefit of any spark or sexual tension. I'm afraid I never really got to know or understand them.

--Thea Davis

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