Rodeo Man by Margaret Watson
(Silh. Int. Mom. #873, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07873-0
***
Teenage Becca Johnson foolishly tries to bluff wandering rodeo rider Grady Farrell into a commitment with the threat of "someone else". Grady calls her bluff; she loses him, but gains his daughter that she was unknowingly carrying at the time.

Nine years later, Dr. Rebecca Johnson is making a house call (barn call?) to the Flying W Ranch in a small Utah town where she has joined a veterinary practice. Rumor has it that Sy Ames had lost the ranch in a poker game. Predictably, Grady Farrell, the new owner, walks in just as Rebecca is finishing up.

Both are stunned, and immediately start sparring. They quickly distance themselves from each other Grady, because he well remembers his old hurt and Rebecca's own self-professed faithlessness, and Rebecca, because she has a daughter he doesn't know about.

This plot line would result in a fairly predictable novel except for the interjection of danger to Rebecca. Gradually, it becomes apparent that someone is stalking her with intent to do bodily harm, and Grady rushes into the fray to protect her.

Rebecca has never overcome her feelings for Grady, so it takes very little to re-ignite the passion on her part. Grady feels he has been once burned and keeps telling himself he will not repeat his old mistakes. Trust is a big issue for him now. As Rebecca is agonizing over how to tell Grady that eight year old Cassie is his daughter, he discovers it on his own. Can you just imagine how this discovery builds new trust?

Rodeo Man had a lot going for it, but lost its momentum for me when the hero started the overworked syndrome of: "I can't be a good father because my father was not a good father, and I might fail, so I won't try."

If this particular plot device doesn't bother you, then you may well enjoy Rodeo Man because it has a number of positive aspects, most notably its well-drawn main characters. If on the other hand excessive self-doubt that borders on being a cop-out makes you tired, then you may agree that Rodeo Man is only an acceptable read.

--Thea Davis


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