The Wildcatter by Peggy Nicholson
(Harlequin Super. #1067, $4.99, PG) 0-373-71067-4
**
It is hard to enjoy a romance novel when there is something to dislike about almost every character. The Wildcatter is filled with such people.

Miguel Heydt returns to Suntop Ranch in Colorado eleven years after his exceedingly brief marriage to rancher Ben Tankersly's eldest daughter Risa. (She fled the ranch immediately after the wedding, annulled the marriage the next day, and married someone else.) Miguel is going back to drill for oil, just as he wanted to years earlier.

Eleven years ago, Risa had just returned from her first year of college back east and was engaged to a man Ben did not like or trust. Ben knew he would have to find a way to break up the couple. Miguel arrived at the ranch looking for a job and had a confrontation with Eric, the fiancé. Ben liked what he saw and also realized that Miguel was looking for more than a job.

Miguel hired on as part of the hay crew so that he could search the area for oil possibilities during his off time. When Ben confronted Miguel and the truth came out, Ben offered to allow the drilling of one well if Miguel could get Risa to marry him. And if he got her pregnant within a year and the child was a boy, Ben would finance the drilling of multiple wells. After struggling with the idea, Miguel decided that he truly was attracted to Risa, so why not reap the benefits that Ben was proposing. They signed a contract and Miguel began his campaign to reel in Risa.

Immediately after the wedding, Risa discovered the contract and stormed away. Miguel, not knowing that she found out about the contract, believed that she just suddenly realized she was marrying a poor man and decided to take off, humiliating him in front of their guests.

Eleven years later, Miguel and Risa, with her son, both arrive at Suntop for the first time since the wedding, neither knowing that the other would be there. Again, Ben, who now lives in San Antonio, hides the truth. Can two people with so much hurt actually get back together? Well, not very convincingly.

Risa had been jerked around by a number of people, so I was sympathetic at first. However, her running away after the wedding and immediately marrying someone else instead of confronting Miguel and Ben seemed very foolish. Later, when working with Miguel would clearly benefit her troubled son, she lets her pride and hurt feelings get in the way for far too long.

Miguel comes off a little better, even though he did sign the despicable contract. After he discovers why Risa left, he is too quick to assume that all can be forgiven with a little physical contact. But Nicholson does give him a good sense of humor, especially in the scenes in which he learns to ride a horse.

As for Risa’s father, Ben, and Eric, the fiancé, neither of them are people I would want to know. Ben somewhat redeems himself, but not enough to give up his manipulative ways. Eric is a bad fiancé, bad husband, a bad father, and of course, he is interested in politics!

The structure of the book is also a problem. The short prologue provides too much information. Since the entire first half of the book details the unhappy events that led to the prologue, I kept putting the book down, not wanting to read the disaster I knew was coming. It took me three days to finish the book while most SuperRomances only take about half a day to read.

The descriptions of the ranch were inviting and the information about searching for oil interesting. It is too bad that the characters did not live up to their surroundings.

--B. Kathy Leitle


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