Emily's Daughter
 

 
Caitlyn’s Prize
by Linda Warren
(HSR #1574, $5.50, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-373-71594-9
**
Caitlyn’s Prize features a hero who spends much of the book brooding about how he can’t love anyone, though he sure can have the hots for an old girlfriend. Readers end up with a disjointed story and an unsatisfying romance.

Caitlyn Belle has come home to run her family’s ranch, finally getting the chance she’s wanted for all these years. She’s stunned to find out her father sold the gas and oil royalties to Judd Calhoun, Caitlyn’s old flame and ex-fiancé. To pour salt on the wound, Caitlyn has six months to make the ranch profitable or she must sell it to Judd at a fair price.

Caitlyn storms into Judd’s house to have it out with him. Fourteen years earlier, Caitlyn ran out on Judd after discovering her father had pretty much engineered their engagement as a business arrangement. When Judd didn’t come after her, it was proof he didn’t love her. As for Judd, he’s spent fourteen years nursing a grudge. Their meeting is full of high-drama clichés like, “I had a heart but you ripped it out by the roots.” After sniping at each other like overwrought teenagers for a few pages, the storyline is set: Caitlyn will try to make a profit on the ranch and Judd will wait for her to fail. And they’ll spend the next two hundred pages denying their feelings for each other.

I would have had more patience with this if either one of them had contemplated just sitting down and having an honest conversation about the events in their past, but it’s apparently much easier to write about people who huff around and accuse each of being despicable every fifteen pages. And that’s about what readers get here. The author tries to inject more storyline by having Caitlyn’s two half-sister show up, wondering where their royalty checks have gone. This wasn’t particularly well thought out. We’re told that the three have always been close, but Caitlyn doesn’t know that one sister has a child and the other has battled cancer? And she’s been cancer-free for two years, but her hair is just now growing back? I’m guessing this is a setup for the next two books.

Anyway, Caitlyn tries hard to make a go of the ranch. Judd shows up at opportune moments and finds himself helping her, against his stated wishes. And Judd’s foreman is a nasty piece of work who tries to hurt Caitlyn’s chances. Throw in an obligatory party scene where Caitlyn gets to wear a slinky red dress, ratcheting Judd’s lust up to incendiary levels, and what you have is a romance where the lead characters still aren’t talking to one another. And we’re supposed to believe this leads to True Love? I don’t think so.

Caitlyn is the stereotypical high-spirited firebrand, etc. but Judd really gave me some problems.  His mother left when he was five, he’ll never love anyone, yadda, yadda. This although his mother came back, stayed with his father, and has spent the last twenty years being a devoted mother. No, he’ll never forgive her! And he doesn’t want to hear her side of the story! It’s all her fault he can’t love anyone. Nothing like a man willing to take responsibility for his own life, is there?

The last third of the book is actually pretty entertaining, as Caitlyn and Judd both stop acting like drama queens and start thinking like adults. It’s at this point that their relationship starts to grow.  Too bad it came so late in the book.To be honest, there’s so little solid foundation that I couldn’t see why these two supposedly loved each other, which makes the romance weak.

All in all, Caitlyn’s Prize isn’t much of a prize in the romance department. Think twice. 

--Cathy Sova


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