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Home Is Where the Cowboy Is
by Doreen Roberts
(Silh. Int. Mom. #909, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07909-5
I did an analysis of my 1998 reading last week, the first time I had been able to thanks to the wonders of computer databases. Much to my amazement, I discovered that more than one-fourth of the books I read in 1998 were categories, this by a person who had never read a single series book before about two years ago and had looked down her nose at the whole genre.

I begin with this information (which probably none of you care about) because Doreen Roberts' Home Is Where the Cowboy Is is such a prototypical and predictable category romance. And yet I found myself completely engrossed in the trials of the hero and heroine, even though I guessed exactly how the plot would progress. In analyzing my reaction to this particular category romance, I think I finally understand the appeal of these short romances. It's about the characters and if an author can create characters we care about, then it really doesn't matter if the plot is hackneyed. This book proves my point.

What we have here is a secret baby, widowed sister-in-law, sibling rivalry, rodeo drifter, second-chance-at-love story. Can't get much more hackneyed than that. And yet, since Roberts' characters come to matter, the book works.

April Briggs has been a widow since her husband flew his small plane into the side of a mountain. The loss has been especially hard on her ten year old son, Josh, who adored his daddy. The story opens with April phoning Denver Briggs, her brother-in-law. Josh is missing and there is every likelihood that he has made his way to the rodeo where Denver is currently hanging his hat. Would he please look around?

Josh has in fact made his way to the rodeo; he sees his bull riding uncle as a hero. Denver corrals his nephew and waits uncomfortably for April's arrival. The two have a past, you see.

Eleven years earlier when April was 18 and Denver was 21, April was dating the serious, reliable Lane Briggs. But there was this attraction between the two and one night, when Lane wasn't around, April and Denver enjoyed a night of memorable passion. Denver left the next day to follow the rodeo; he believed that April deserved someone more stable than he saw himself to be. But he has never forgotten that night or the woman.

April has never forgotten that night, or its consequences. Yes, friends, Josh is really Denver's child. When April turned up pregnant with his brother's child, the responsible Lane had married her and raised Josh as his own. But now Lane is gone, and Josh needs his uncle. So April will have to ignore the fact that she still has strong feelings for Denver in her son's best interests.

I don't think I need to describe anymore of the story. As I said, the plot is completely predictable. But I did get involved with the characters. In particular, I felt Josh's pain as a small boy tries to adjust to life without a beloved parent. Roberts also did a good job of explaining why Denver and April felt and acted as they did.

In short, Home Is Where the Cowboy Is passed my pick-up/put down test. It kept me turning the pages. I rather imagine that I will look for the next two installments of Roberts series, "Rodeo Men." And I don't even like cowboy books very much.

--Jean Mason

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