I always love to see historical romances set in times and places I don’t encounter as often those set in, for example, Regency England or the American West. Therefore, I was excited about reading a novel set among the Mounties in late 19th century Alberta.
Sarah O’Neill travels all the way from Halifax, Nova Scotia to meet Chief Surgeon John Calloway, the man with whom she thinks she has been corresponding. Sarah longs to begin a new life and, through their letters, she has come to believe that John would be a good person with whom to share that life. Sarah, however, has unknowingly been the victim of a hoax.
Chief Surgeon Calloway’s men are in fact the ones who wrote to Sarah and invited her to come to Alberta to marry John. Even more disconcerting, John seems to be one of the few men in the barracks who doesn’t know about the “bride’s” impending arrival. Needless to say, he is flabbergasted when he finds out why Sarah has come and he intends to send her right back to Nova Scotia. Sarah, however, has other ideas.
Instead of quietly going back to her dreary life in the East, Sarah takes a room and decides to remain in Alberta. John, for his part, feels drawn to Sarah, while also coming to realize that, in the eyes of the town, he has compromised her. Therefore, he proposes to fix that problem – and that’s when it all starts to get very interesting.
Sarah is an appealing heroine. She has a vulnerable quality about her, but she doesn’t simper or cling or try to hide her strengths. In fact, as the story progresses, Sarah changes from a nervous mail-order bride into a woman of competence and inner strength. John, on the other hand, is a bit more of a dyed-in-the-wool bachelor. He seems not to know what to do with this woman in his life, while also remaining clueless about stepping into any role other than that of the alpha male. A bit of change is in store for him, too.
With appealing characters and an interesting setting, this would easily have been a keeper for me were it not for the sometimes clumsy handling of various suspense subplots worked into this tale. Without giving away details, suffice it to say that too many coincidental things just happen to work out in this story.
Another aspect of this novel that didn’t work for me involved Sarah’s job. The people of the town didn’t seem to find anything unusual in Sarah working at the local jewelry shop, but even though times were changing at the end of the 19th century, they had not changed that much. A woman in Sarah’s situation working independently would definitely have raised eyebrows in most communities.
Still, The Surgeon is a very entertaining read and I genuinely enjoyed stepping into John and Sarah’s world. I haven’t read any other books by Kate Bridges, but I certainly intend to seek them out.