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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Rodeo Man's Daughter by Barbara White Daille

The Rodeo Man's Daughter by Barbara White Daille
Publisher: Harlequin American Romance
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (184 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

When Caleb Cantrell left home as a dirt-poor teenager, he never thought he'd return as a wealthy rodeo star.

As a matter of fact, he didn't think he'd return at all. The accident changed all that. It ended his career, nearly ended his life and rekindled a bitterness he thought he'd left in the dust long ago.

To rebuild, Caleb has to go back to where it all began—back to Flagman's Folly, New Mexico, and back to his high-school sweetheart, Tess LaSalle. But a ten-year-old secret stands between them, one that could hurt everyone Tess loves, especially her daughter…their daughter…the one Caleb never knew existed.

No rodeo ever required the courage Caleb needs now—to forgive, to forget and to start over again…if it's not already too late.

Caleb Cantrell’s need to prove he is “somebody” not just the bastard son of the town’s whore drove him as he became wealthy as a rodeo rider. After ten years, he returns to Flagman’s Folly New Mexico. He cannot believe how unconcerned the people are about who he was “back then”. They just seem to be proud of his success—all except Tess LaSalle, the girl he’d left behind. She acts like she wants him gone.

Tess did want him gone. His touch stirred unwanted feelings that she put away long ago. His words when she went to Gallup rodeo to tell him she was pregnant still burn like acid in her heart. He’d said his winnings would save him from having to go back to a “one-horse town with one-horse folks in it”—she was and is one of those “folks”. He’d gone on to bask in his new celebrity status with trophies, buckle bunnies, and most importantly, money. She’d gone home and put her life together with meticulous care. Now she copes with financial worries, with a weak real estate market, with her mother, Rosalyn’s struggling bed and breakfast Whistlestop Inn, and with her prickly, stubborn, sometime belligerent preteen daughter, Nate.

Nate is precious and loved even though she is a handful at times. She and her friends are “cowboy-crazy” and to them the world is wonder when the rodeo star Caleb Cantrell comes to town. Nate is at the age when issues are black or white—no shades of gray in between. Her emotions are volatile and coming to terms with the shocking changes in her world has her reeling and makes her super difficult at times.

The many secondary characters help move the story along. Rosalyn and Aunt Ellamae create a conspiratorial humor as do Nate and her three best friends. They all love Caleb’s self-centered rodeo stories. Judge Baylor, Sam Robertson, and others help Caleb gradually let go of the “chip on this shoulder”. Dana Wright and Joe Harley prove to be tried and true friends of Tess and support her in some really tough situations.

For some reason, I did not feel that I was having a vicarious experience with the characters. I felt I was on the outside looking in on conflicts but with little else going on—rather like a Mexican Standoff. However, the U-turn Caleb makes that shows his maturation and his ability to stop thinking about just himself and what he wants and needs makes the story come alive. It also shows Nate in a whole new light that reveals her redeeming qualities. They become far more likeable characters. They both do some amazing growing up.

Barbara White Daille has a smooth, expressive writing style with subtle metaphors, humor, and a setting that seems authentic. Her sense of small town living is right on, and made this book a worthwhile read.