Lovers of Western/Frontier romances sure have there work cut out for them. If you are like me and have a strong affection for this subgenre, you know the pickings are mighty slim. Thankfully, Kate Bridges seems to know a thing or two about a good historic romance not set in 19th century England. Even better, in Klondike Doctor she takes us to western Canada during the gold rush. I love this setting, although I found the book’s set-up hokey.
The eye-rolling premise is this: A group of six Mounties go undercover (selling sausages and dried apricots, no less) as brothers to catch a group of robbers on their way to infamous Dawson City in the Yukon. Tagging along is an equally fake sister who is traveling for her own reasons. And the hero’s name is Colt Hunter. Very manly, but it’s one of those names that just makes me shake my head.
Turns out that the set-up isn’t as hokey as you might think. It worked. Elizabeth Langley is the daughter of Canada’s Minister of Finance. Due to his exalted position, daddy Langley is assigned a retinue of Mounties to act as bodyguards. That has been Colt’s job for a number of years, putting him in close proximity to the lovely Dr. Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a great doctor struggling against rules laid out for her by the opposite sex. She doesn’t want to treat only women, and even then only mild complaints and childbirth. She wants to be a doctor in every sense of the word. She’s darn good at it too. Her reasons for traveling to Dawson City are two-fold: she believes she will be treated a little more fairly since there aren’t many doctors and she also wants to carry out the last wishes of her deceased uncle.
The men aren’t too happy about bringing Elizabeth along on their mission. She proves herself, though. She’s tough and smart and quite handy when someone finds himself with a broken leg. Colt, who always thought Elizabeth was a beauty, now finds out how wonderful she is on the inside. Elizabeth tried to get Colt’s attention for years, but after being shunned by the man who has the personality of a statue, she had given up. Elizabeth now learns there’s a real man inside Colt’s cold façade.
There is a nice balance of mystery and romance, surprising for such a short novel. Elizabeth is a wonderful character described as being both book and street smart. More importantly, we are shown this as well. She isn’t a simpering virgin, either, which makes for some rather hot love scenes. Colt was a little harder to pin down. His character doesn’t seem as thoroughly developed as Elizabeth’s, but he still comes across as a helluva hero.
Besides a lack of depth on Colt’s part, the book’s beginning tripped me up. It seems a common problem with shorter novels to have a rushed ending; this book had the reverse problem. The story began abruptly, in the middle of a conversation between Elizabeth and Colt on the train at the start of their journey. Though the book soon settled into a very satisfying road romance, I felt as though I’d missed something.
You won’t get any more complaints from me about Klondike Doctor. A good western is a good western in my book. I hope to look up some past work of Kate Bridges and see if they will satisfy my renewed appetite for this genre. I give this one a high recommendation – and not only for the bathtub scene. <g>