I have mixed feelings about this one. I love reunion romances, and this tale of a couple who fell in love as teens at a summer camp, and meet again years later initially struck all the right cords. But the book derailed for me, with the emphasis more on other aspects on the lives of the hero and heroine than on their potential romance. In the end, parts of it were enjoyable, but not enough for me to recommend.
Amanda Markette grew up on the rodeo circuit, largely ignored by her parents. When her mother died her father dumped her at a summer camp, which is where she met, and lost, her first love, Mitch Goodwin. Amanda eventually became a top rodeo star, constantly trying to please her father and win his love. She finally realized it would never happen, and put herself through college and law school. Now a new attorney, she specializes in family law, working to ensure that the interests of children come first.
Amanda is in charge of entertainment for the local bar association’s annual fundraiser, oddly enough, a rodeo. She hired her father as primary entertainment, but in keeping with his character, he bailed on Amanda at the last minute, leaving her to step in.
Mitch is also an attorney in the same town – although the two haven’t met – and goes to the fundraiser with hopes of seeing Amanda’s father, and casually inquiring about her. When Mitch sees Amanda in her father’s place, he’s delighted, and becomes high bidder to win the first dance with Amanda. The two apparently spend a lot of time talking off-page at the fundraiser, getting reacquainted. All we’re treated to as readers is their dance, a kiss, and then Mitch’s abrupt departure when a cowboy comes up and talks to Amanda.
Mitch is not pleased when he later runs into Amanda in court and discovers she’s his ex-wife’s latest attorney in a custody battle. Mitch’s ex-wife ran off with another man soon after their daughter Hailey was born, leaving Mitch with sole custody. Now his ex-wife is back and is suing for full custody, charging that Mitch doesn’t spend enough time with their daughter. How the woman would know this is beyond me since she has made no attempts to contact Mitch or their daughter since she abandoned the family. And now she expects full custody.
The plot got very shaky for me after the hearing. Mitch’s ex-wife is granted temporary visitation rights, but when an unfortunate accident occurs, the situation becomes drastically worse. In a series of almost unbelievable incidents, Mitch’s ex-wife is granted temporary custody of their daughter and Mitch is only allowed to see his daughter under supervised visits, with Amanda providing the supervision.
I realize that the short format can be limiting, but a bit too much occurred off-page for me. The love Mitch feels for his daughter is beautiful, and the pain they both feel when they’re separated is palpable. Amanda and Mitch’s feelings for each other were never that clear to me. We’re told that Mitch and Amanda grow closer in a series of supervised visits, but we don’t see it happen. And the wrap-up felt abrupt; characters that had been unpleasant and self-serving throughout the book suddenly reformed – again, off-page – and had more honorable motivations.
Ultimately, Rodeo Daughter winds up as a big, fat C. Average. Nothing more and nothing less.