Texas, of course--in a novel that is sometimes engagingly buoyant (sweet Amarillo dialogue, likably hapless characters) but ultimately drowns in its sentimentality. . . not to mention its over-similarity to Jenkins' Semi-Tough or its patches of overwriting (""The red wound of her robe healed, instant anaplerosis. . ."") and cowboy-cuteness. Boone Randolf is both a social worker and a good-old-boy, best friend to an even gooder-old-boy name of Grady Hornsby, who's crazy when he drinks (known to bite the head off a parrot in a bar) and in the hairshirt afterwards. Grady's girlfriend Rowena, too classy an act for Grady--more Boone's type, and they both know it--loves him still, proof of which is how often she throws him out on his ear. And in the midst of this triangle is Boone's social-work job, which currently involves a case that he's been suckered into by his jealous boss: he winds up spending lots of time with a 19-year-old newlywed (who already wants to have affairs) named Sue Pam. If Boone can manage to keep Sue Pam married a little longer, her daddy will royally endow the hospital that Boone works for; but Sue Para sets her romantic sights on her noble helpmeet instead. Boone resists, gives in, resists--and enter Grady, who never resisted anything in his life. There's bound to be trouble; there is; and Sue Pam gets dead, by her husband's hand. Unfortunately, Wyatt (Catching Fire) has excessive fondness for writing about illicit lovers caught in the act--there's still more to come--and his working-out of the plot becomes disastrously self-conscious. Still, though the novel may be too long, too complacent, and simply too much, the characters remain oddly charming, with lots of tart talk as they stumble into one disaster after another.