Healing Her Emergency Doc by Caroline Anderson

This theme was a little bit of a headscratcher for me. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t come up with anything in my TBR that might involve competition of any kind. I went combing through my category books, and spotted a medical romance centering on two doctors competing for the same job. Not sure how I ended up with Healing Her Emergency Doc as I’m not familiar with the author, but I decided to give this one a read and see how it went. It went well, as a matter of fact.

We figure out early on that Laura and Tom went through medical school together. There was apparently some spark of chemistry between them back in the day that led to flirtation and then – a really awkward parting shortly before graduation. They haven’t seen each other in the intervening seven years until Laura goes to a job interview and sees Tom there, too. As they get reacquainted with one another during the interview process, sparks begin to fly in a big way.

The rekindled flame with these two felt very real even if things did move very quickly at first. Believable too was all the baggage these two had. Laura had essentially put her career on hold to care for her ill grandfather and now, after his passing, the emergency room position at Yoxburgh Park Hospital represents her chance at financial stability as well as the ability to stay in the home where she’s put down roots. Laura had assumed Tom was safely established in London and that she would never see him again, so seeing this skilled and very confident rival show up at her interview shakes her confidence.

On the one hand, I got frustrated at Laura’s immediate assumption that she would never get her dream job now that she had to compete with Tom. However, I can’t fault her too much for the imposter syndrome since I’ve had these moments, too. They’re a little cringeworthy to read, but living them feels that way, too. The author made Laura feel very human from the outset and that ultimately endeared her to me.

On the one hand, conflicts in the book tend to get resolved in a fairly pat fashion, which will likely frustrate some readers, especially since the leads get thrown some pretty big curveballs. If I was looking to wrestle with something meatier, I’d probably have been frustrated by this. However, since I needed a comfort read, reading a book where characters learn to communicate with each other and knock down obstacles in their paths was good for me. That’s not to say that the leads don’t deal with some pretty big issues. After all, we have two intelligent professionals trying to plot career paths, we have family issues and a big medical diagnosis all thrown into the mix. Still, even with all that, the book definitely has a feel-good quality about it. The more I think about it, the more I believe that I came away from the story with this feeling because the HEA as written by the author felt secure even if the characters were dealing with continuing complications in their lives.

And one last note I couldn’t help throwing in here as an American reader: This novel is set in a British hospital. While I had to root around on Google to figure out some of the terminology being used, one other cultural difference I noted and appreciated was the health system itself. There are scenes in this book where patients come into the emergency room with major trauma and the attention of the medical team can be focused solely on treating them. No one is worried about families being wiped out by medical bills, what the co-pay is, getting preapproval from insurance or any of the rest of the daily nightmares I see in this country. I wish that part of the setting weren’t a fairytale in my country.

Grade: B                                                         Sensuality: Subtle

~ Lynn Spencer

Buy it at Amazon or your local independent retailer


Tiny House, Big Love by Olivia Dade

I had a hard time coming up with a suitable book to fit the Competition prompt.  I’ve read and/or listened to some terrific books this year based around competitions – Rosaline Palmer Takes the CakeBattle Royal and The Charm Offensive – but it’s not actually a trope I gravitate towards, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find anything in my existing collection (I always try to choose my TBR books from ones I already own). I confess I was about to wuss out and just choose something at random when I found the  two Love Unscripted books (isn’t it awful, how many books you buy and then forget you own?!)  on my Kindle and voilà! – problem solved.

Tiny House, Big Love is the second of Olivia Dade’s Love Unscripted books, both of which feature contestants taking part in different reality TV shows.  In this story, the show is Tiny House Trackers, in which the participants are looking to buy – you guessed it! – a Tiny House.  I have to stop here to confess that I had no idea a Tiny House was something other than “a very small house”, and had to look it up so I could understand what the heroine was actually looking for!  It’s a quick and entertaining read, the two leads are endearing and the mutual longing they feel for each other just leaps off the page, although the short page-count left me wanting to know about more of both their backstories.

Massage therapist Lucy Finch is about to take a promotion which will require her to move around the country a fair bit, and rather than finding temporary accommodation each time she moves, she’s decided to buy a Tiny Home that she can take with her wherever she goes.  Her friend, Allie, a real estate agent, encouraged her to apply to appear on the show and she’ll be the one finding Lucy three homes to view – with the expectation being that she’ll choose to buy one of them at the end of it.  Lucy asks her best friend of over twenty years, Sebastián Castillo, to be on the show, too, to help her make her choice.

It’s clear from the off that Sebastián and Lucy have long had feelings stronger than friendship for each other, but have never acknowledged the fact or acted on them.  They’ve been friends since high-school, when Sebastián, bullied because he was small for his age and because he was an immigrant, not only faced off his own bullies, but hers as well.  They kept in touch after Sebastián  moved away, exchanging loads of letters, postcards and emails; but now he’s back in Marysburg, Lucy is about to leave, and she’s wondering, somewhat wistfully, if they could ever have been more to each other than friends.

Sebastián would rather have teeth pulled without anaesthetic than appear on television, but he can’t refuse Lucy’s request for help, and agrees to appear with her on Tiny House Trackers.  He’s an intensely private person and years of bullying have left him scared to let himself be vulnerable and with a thick outer shell of implacability.  He keeps his emotions buried and under lock and key – but because he buries them doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel them deeply;  he’s determined not to give anything away in front of the cameras – or Lucy – as to the truth of his feelings for her, because he doesn’t want to influence her decision to move away – and because he doesn’t think he could handle rejection.  He’s the strong, silent type, but he shows his affection for Lucy in a hundred little ways and he’s a lovely hero – caring, protective and supportive with every bone in his body.

Lucy’s last boyfriend was a douchebag who knocked her confidence in her own judgement, and she’s still second-guessing herself more than she used to.  She’s strongly attracted to Sebastián, but his inscrutability gives her no clue as to whether he feels the same, and she doesn’t want to risk making a move and ruining the most important relationship in her life.  Sometimes she thinks he’s attracted to her, but then whatever she sees in his face is gone, leaving her wondering.

Lucy and Sebastián are likeable and endearing and make an adorable couple – although I admit I did sometimes want to shake some sense into Sebastián and tell him to wise up (but he more than makes up for his reticence in the end.)  They’re real people with real problems who struggle, but grow and learn how to make things work.  Their move from friends to lovers doesn’t feel rushed, and the aforementioned longing and UST is incredibly well done. The scenes they film for the show as they tour the houses on offer are a hoot –

The last thing she needed was either a deep-woods pot shack, a dick-festooned bus, or an Oregon Trail enthusiast’s fever dream.

and I loved that we’re shown Lucy slowly re-learning to assert herself as she works through the selection process and reaches her decision.  I also liked the way the main story is framed with chapters from the PoVs of two of the production assistants (who really deserve their own story, because there are serious sparks there!)

Tiny House, Big Love is a delightful contemporary romance with lots of gentle humour and awesome friends-to-lovers pining.  It’s short, sweet, sexy and well worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.

Grade: B+                          Sensuality: Warm

~ Caz Owens

Buy it at Amazon or your local independent retailer

 

Caz Owens
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Queer romance, romantic suspense and historicals - romance, mysteries, fiction -  are my genres of choice these days, and when I haven't got my nose in a book, I’ve got my ears in one.  I’m a huge fan of audiobooks and am rarely to be found without my earbuds in.

Lynn Spencer
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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.