How to Win the Surgeon's Heart
Many AAR reviewers, including me, have been buzzing about the good things coming out of Harlequin lately. I haven’t read a book from the Harlequin Medicals line before, so it seemed like a good time to give one a try. Tina Beckett is a prolific Medical author, and her latest, How to Win the Surgeon’s Heart, takes place between two physicians on the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Victoria. While the book had room for improvement, I enjoyed it, and the medical content in particular.
Harvard-educated Saint Victoria native Dr. Sasha James is the surgeon at the island’s public hospital. Mistrusting rich boys due to a bad relationship, she’s avoided meeting Dr. Nate Edwards. Nate served in Saint Victoria during a hurricane with a Doctors Without Borders-type group and lost a young patient, which has made him feel called to relocate to and work on the island. Now he is widely known as a health philanthropist and the founder of the nearby private, high-end The Island Clinic, which offers subsidized care to locals alongside the global elite patients who come for its top-notch care and seclusion.
He visits Sasha’s Saint Victoria Hospital one day, and she is unable to avoid being his host. The visit is interrupted by a patient having a heart attack, even more of a crisis because Saint Vincent’s cardiologist is unavailable. Nate immediately offers to have the man air-lifted to The Island Clinic. Sasha, being a diligent physician, wants to check up on her patient, which means she’ll have to see Nate again. Thus begins a relationship.
The plot arc is pretty standard. Nate’s parents and potential fiancée cut all contact with him when he decided to return to Saint Victoria instead of joining his parents’ high-end plastic surgery practice, so he’s uncertain that anyone actually intends to love him. Sasha worries that Nate will be the same self-centered user as her previous boyfriend. The author does one of the better versions of this type of conflict, using legitimate misunderstandings instead of bullheaded denial, but I wouldn’t call them wildly original. Especially at the beginning, Sasha’s refusal to even meet Nate comes across as immature.
As I mentioned, I’m new to Harlequin Medical, so I didn’t know what to expect from the medical side of the book. I was impressed! The medical side of the story, from procedures (the facial reconstruction of a patient with a deep-rooted melanoma) to public health measures (checking for schistosomiasis at an island population level), are detailed without being dry infodumps. We see the challenges of patient access to care and transport on an island, as when Sasha talks about how her father died of a heart attack when she was a teenager because they couldn’t get him to treatment. The author talks about the difference between Sasha’s emergency surgery and vascular microsurgery, and has procedures take hours. Patients must give consent for other physicians to observe their procedures or review their cases. Test results come back in a realistic two to three weeks. The surgeons scrub in and then the nurses help them put on gloves to maintain sterility. All the little details are there, and I loved it.
I appreciate the clear research that went into making The Island Clinic’s business model plausible. Nate’s hospital was established on the back of his presumably-massive trust fund, it maintains itself by providing top-of-the-line care in a luxurious, ultra-private setting, and charges out the eyeballs for doing so. Even then, it still has to host an annual gala fundraiser to subsidize the treatment it makes available to locals at low or no cost. In a genre that often hits you with complete financial illogic, this thoroughness delighted me.
But the well-developed details of the medical setting just make it more obvious how wallpaper the Caribbean setting is. The island is called Saint Victoria, but we don’t know anything about it. How big is it? Does it have cities? It seems to have French colonial history because Sasha, two or three times, uses “French Creole” expressions, but I don’t know where she got them from because every other islander speaks standard American English. Sasha, on the cover, is a stunning Black woman, but the text barely describes her physically – she could be any race, as long as she has curly hair. Her mother is a chef, whose catering for The Island Clinic’s gala is a plot point, but the only Caribbean dish we read about is conch soup. We don’t even have a description of how it tastes, besides “good”. And is it really sexy – or even hygenic – to have sex on a salt-water beach, in the sand? I couldn’t help contrasting this with the rich details of the #OwnVoices Caribbean books I’ve read.
I also had an issue with a medical situation that comes up partway through the book which fizzles out. I don’t want to go into detail because spoilers, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Harlequin Medicals absolutely delivers on its promise to provide a medical story and setting. I wish that the romance and the Caribbean setting had been as strong. On the whole, though, this was a strong first start for me with Harlequin Medicals, and I’ll absolutely be back to the line in the future.
Buy it at: Amazon or your local independent retailer
Visit our Amazon Storefront
I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.