I loved the setting, the premise, and the possibility of this book: a general practice physician takes over the local clinic in the small Montana town she grew up in, and has to deal with the townspeople seeing her as a local girl and not a doctor, the sexism that forces some folks to refuse to see a female doctor, and the hot, burning attraction for a former flame, the brother of a very close friend who has conveniently moved back to town as well.
I hoped that the incredibly dull title (He may call her Doc. I call that title a dispatch from the Boring Department. What’s up with that one, HQN?) would not indicate a dull read, because crossing smalltown Montana with medical drama and romance? Could be awesome! And while it wasn’t dull, it was underdeveloped and, upon finishing it, seemed unfinished because the little questions that drove the plot forward were unanswered. I hate when I finish a book and have more ‘But what about…?“s than I know what to do with.
The heroine, Maude, is intelligent and clearly a good doctor, but she has an enormous lack of self-awareness. She says that she’s become a doctor because it was her sister’s dream. At one point the hero asks her what motivates her, why she has accomplished so much for a reason that only pays lip service to her own sense of dedication, and the heroine is thunderstruck. Is it possible that someone could spend that many hours through med school, internship, residency, and practice – not to mention spending that many thousands of dollars on the education itself – without some serious reflection as to WHY one is doing it, beyond the pat and trite appropriately selfless answer? Particularly if the reason is a vicarious one that rests entirely outside of the person doing all the work?
Moreover, why does she let one particularly obnoxious man speak to her and menace her personally, without (a) checking out whether he’s really representing the opinion of the whole town, or (b) telling someone that assmunch is being inappropriate? Hell, this is a small town in a rural agricultural community, right? Maude, get your gun and greet the assmonkey at the door with it. Come on now, you have needles. Wave them around and immunize your life from the jackass with a one-note villainy!
The hero, Guy, finds himself caught between a big misunderstanding with Maude, and a big misunderstanding with his niece, who is now his ward and living on her late father’s ranch with Clueless Uncle Guy after running away from whomever had custody of her prior to her hitch-hiking roadtrip. Guy’s plenty bitter and cranky, and unable to put Maude out of his mind even though he’d really like to forget her. But I wasn’t sure he himself evolved or grew up as much as he got over some stupid shit he should have been over before.
Mostly, I was left with more questions than answers. Why is Maude’s sister’s current situation not more fully explained? What exactly happened to her? How on earth was the antagonist not given a royal smackdown, which he so richly deserved? How did the rest of the town, which is very, very small, not give the guy a righteous asskicking? Screw that, how was he not arrested for harassment? The more of the past which motivated the characters was revealed, the more I wondered what the hell was wrong with them.
But what really put me over the edge was the ending, which was predictable, and trite – which, hey, it happens. Happy endings occasionally dance right over the reality line into Happy Ever After On the Back of a Sparkly Pony Who Farts Rainbows and Craps Precious Moments Figurines.
The ending to this book was utterly, completely, and unrealistically laden with nuclear family dynamics. Didja know that if you have a really surly adolescent with terrible emotional wounds and a deep and painful history of neglect and abuse, it can all be made well with bath oil and your current guardian hooking up with – in appropriate fashion – the town doctor? Got Surly Teenz? You can haz nuclear family! WIN!
I wanted to like this book, mostly because smalltown general practice by a woman doctor= ripe for interesting stories. This one left me with more questions, and more “WTF?” than I had anticipated.