The Cowboy Code
by Christine Wenger
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #2094, $4.99, PG) ISBN 978-0343-65576-2
Maggie McIntyre is a Broadway actress who was left with a thirteen year old nephew Daniel when her sister died. Maggie didn’t handle her grief well, immersing herself in her latest role and only minimally attending to Danny’s needs. Now he has been arrested and Maggie finds herself on the way to a camp for troubled youth. The Judge sent them both to Wyoming in hopes of building their relationship. They need to do well in the camp or Danny can be sent to Juvenile Detention until he is 18. Danny is less than thrilled with the requirement. Maggie has some issues with it too, but is determined to do everything she can for her nephew.

The camp is called the Cowboy Quest. The purpose is to teach the Cowboy Code, responsibility, hard work and help kids see that there is more to life than recklessness and shinning authority. Maggie will be there as a participant to build that bond with Danny too. The owner of the ranch is Joe Watley. Joe is a cowboy and loves his land. He and his friends came up with the idea of the camp and this is the second set of kids they have worked with. Their routine is set. First the kids work in the ranch area, learning to care for and ride the horses. Then they go on a week long trail ride, moving the cattle from winter to summer grazing land.

Joe has read the file on Maggie and Danny and has high hopes that his camp will help. His friend, the Judge, will expect a report from him at the end and he wants to give a good report, but is committed to giving an accurate report. Joe is an ex-rodeo star and has the gold buckles to prove it. He has been running the ranch for a few years, ever since his parents “retired” and turned it over to him. He has worked hard to build its reputation.

Joe and Maggie feel a pull when they first meet. I struggled with this at first and had to get past it to enjoy their romance. Here is a guy who is trying to be a professional and is hitting on the first woman who joins his program. And here is a lady who says she is committed to her nephew, but spends the first three or more days dealing with this cowboy, causing Danny to be almost an afterthought.

Danny’s story centers on his relationship with another boy as he figures out he can stand on his own feet and not have to worry about how people see him. We watch his transformation through the eyes of Maggie and Joe, so we only see what Danny shares with his aunt. This struggle also causes Maggie to evaluate her life and her role in the whole situation. She realizes she didn’t handle things like she could have and has to re-evaluate what she wants too. With Joe in the equation, she has even more to think about.

Joe and Maggie show sexual tension and for the most part they fight it valiantly. They become friends and so their capitulation feels almost inevitable. Joe has to learn to see that Maggie is her own person and not the same as his previous fiancée who dumped him for LA when she couldn’t handle the ranch full time. He is also committed to working with the boys. He is a good guy and this character shines through.

The Cowboy Code is an pleasant tale and sets up a series about the cowboys who previously won gold buckles in the rodeo. I liked Maggie, Joe and Danny, which made it easier to accept their story and just enjoy it despite some initial misgivings.

--Shirley Lyons

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