Predictable Steel (Silent Honor, 1996, etc.)--competent but uninspired--as three fortysomething women find romance, love, friendship, and hope (they already have the wardrobe) at an expensive dude ranch in Wyoming. Tanya Thomas, a rock-and-movie superstar; Mary Stuart Walker, perfect wife to a successful lawyer; and Zoe Phillips, a doctor who runs an AIDS clinic in San Francisco, were dorm mates at Berkeley. A fourth friend, Ellie, committed suicide in their senior year, and Zoe and Mary Stuart haven't talked since. Twenty-six years later, Tanya's third marriage has just fallen apart; Mary Stuart's son Todd has committed suicide, and her husband, who seems to blame her, has not made love to her in a year; and Zoe, like a Mother Teresa, leads a selfless life attending to her incurably ill patients, and has herself just been diagnosed with HIV. Tanya tricks her two old roomies into spending two weeks' vacation with her at the ranch. While there, they bond and then pair off. Zoe conducts a romance by phone with Sam Warner, a doctor who's always loved her, and who asks her to marry him when he hears that she has AIDS. Tanya, a simple Texas girl at heart, falls for Gordon, a wrangler at the ranch, and spends blissful nights in his cabin. And Mary Stuart gets her confidence back in the company of a successful writer, who wants to steal her away from her lout of a husband. Each of these men is ``there'' for his woman; likewise, each of these women is lovingly ``there'' for her friends. It's quite a feat that Steel can combine the tragedy of AIDS with color-coordinated cowboy boots and still create characters a reader can care about. Her mannered style, however, has begun to tilt toward caricature.