When Baby Was Born

 
The Come-Back Cowboy
by Jodi O’Donnell
(Silh.. Sp. Ed. #1494, $4.75, PG) ISBN 0-373-24494-0
*
If angst-ridden cowboys who are haunted by things their father did, who are hounded by past mistakes and who continually strive to control their emotions for everyone else’s good is your cup of tea, then take a look at The Come-Back Cowboy. I wish I had lost my way home.

Deke Larrabie is his father’s son, or so he has been told his whole life. He is a cowboy, through and through…a natural at roping and riding. Deke’s father, D.K., could do those things too. Deke’s father also loved intensely and was devastated when he lost Deke’s mother to illness. He struggled to control his alcoholism the rest of his life. Seven years ago, D.K. appears to have started drinking and burned down the brand new breeding center on the Bar G, a ranch owned by Jud Gentry.

Jud’s daughter, Addie, was and has been in love with Deke ever since they met 10 years ago. On the very night of the big fire, she had given Deke her innocence and they had promised their eternal love to each other. But Deke left that night, and seemed to disappear from the earth, even though Jud looked for him for nine months. On the night their son was born, Addie called off the search. She had her baby, Jace, and she would get over Deke, if it killed her.

It is now seven years later. Jace is a strapping six-year-old, curious and interested in learning about working on the ranch. He is also adamant that he doesn’t want a new father. Addie has other ideas. She is engaged to marry the son of the owner of a neighboring ranch, Conner Brody. Connor is an educated man, just not about ranches. His father Mick constantly harangues him about his ignorance. But he is a nice guy and Addie feels Jace needs a man in his young life. And joining the resources of the two ranches will help her finish rebuilding the ranch from the last of the fire’s effects.

Deke shows up, at Jud’s invitation, to help with the rebuilding. It seems that Deke has made a name for himself as a consultant, and Jud feels it is time for Deke to know about his son. As you might guess, Deke surprises Addie, who secretly pines for her lost love. Deke loves Addie, but has convinced himself he did the right thing by leaving. Angst follows angst, recriminations follow recriminations and explosive sexual tension builds.

Predictable plotlines, not very likable characters and everyone’s inability to move on with one’s life doom this story from the start. The prologue starts it off, as Addie finishes a diary entry with the words:

I’ll keep on praying in my heart of hearts: come back, cowboy. Oh, cowboy, won’t you come back?

Addie is manipulative, whiny and unable to understand herself. After all these years of operating the ranch for her ill father, raising a son, and entering into a new relationship, one would assume she had some sense. It isn’t apparent in her actions.

Deke is the tormented hero, agonizing over every mistake either he or his father made. He is thrilled to learn he has a son, but he is so fearful of making the same mistake of falling in love that his father did, he tries to deny all emotion. Hence he is either boiling with raw pain from the past or completely cold and indifferent. (Except around Jace, who reveres Deke even before knowing he is his father.)

Saying Mick Brody, the villain, is mean-spirited is a polite way of describing him. Yet, he is a well-respected rancher. What type of community would embrace this kind of man? His son comes across as a pathetic man who can never live up to expectations no matter what he does. Even when he does nice things for Addie, it feels as if he is doing them in an apologetic way. Addie’s father is a non-entity, yet he is supposedly involved in the decisions of the ranch. Jace is given the role of a whiny kid and is tolerable.

Of course, everything comes out in the end, with lots of forgiveness, understanding of misunderstandings and setting things right. And of course, true love rises to the top. Unfortunately there is a lot of torment to get through and it just did not work for me.

The Come-Back Cowboy can pass right on by, and I recommend you do the same.

--Shirley Lyons


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