Book Review

He Calls Her Doc by Mary Brady

D+

Title: He Calls Her Doc
Author: Mary Brady
Publication Info: Harlequin May 2009
ISBN: 9780373715619
Genre: Contemporary Romance

He Calls Her Doc. 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.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Charlene says:

    How big is this town, by the way, that it is both “small” and large enough to support a physician?

    Because where I come from a small town has fewer than 500 people, and you simply don’t find doctors in towns that small. But to me that’s a flaw of many Harlequins: too many are set in “small towns” that in reality must be the size of medium-sized cities given what’s going on.

  2. 2
    lilacsigil says:

    A small town medical perspective:

    @Charlene – I live in a town with 800 people and 2.5 doctors, plus a tiny hospital and visiting specialists! The catch is that it’s dairying country and there’s a lot of people in the areas around the town. So if it’s not grain crop or sheep or beef cattle, they could well have a doctor.

    Also, I know an unfortunately large number of young doctors who really never have thought about why they want to be doctors – a lot of them got good grades in high school and thought that medicine (or law) was the obvious choice. They get so hung up on success and continuing good grades that they don’t have time to think about why they’re even doctors until they hit their late 20s and are suddenly out in the world, away from their schooling. This doesn’t strike me as at all odd.

  3. 3
    Michelle W says:

    I thought the title read “He Calls Her DOG” and said to myself no wonder it got a D+ rating. 
    Guess I’m not as awake as I thought I was—making me another cuppa!

  4. 4
    Melissa says:

    I also read the title as “He Calls Her Dog”.  I wondered why the heck HQN wanted to publish a book about a man mean enough to call a woman ‘dog’, and then my brain cell finally kicked in.

    I obviously not only need some caffeine, but I also need to clean my glasses.  :>

    P.S.—My spamword is ‘post57’.  I’m getting up there but haven’t passed that age yet!

  5. 5
    Randi says:

    Happy Ever After On the Back of a Sparkly Pony Who Farts Rainbows and Craps Precious Moments Figurines.

    ROFLMAO! Good thing I hadn’t taken a sip of my coffee!

    ten29: ten 29 year olds? God help me…

  6. 6
    Celia says:

    Wow, I totally read the title as ‘He calls her dog” and thought that it was either a made up cover or truly the world’s worst romance novel.

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    I thought the title read “He Calls Her DOG” and said to myself no wonder it got a D+ rating.

    I keep reading an earlier header as “Watching Tonight” and thinking Sarah and Candy have made the eight o’ clock news, or Celebrity Jeopardy, or something.

  8. 8

    I haven’t read this book as I’m not a huge fan of doctor stories but it’s unfortunate it didn’t do anything for you. It’s always a bummer to come away from a book disappointed. Recently, I read an urban fiction that was really popular, Cast In Shadow, but I really didn’t care for it. I was really bummed because I liked the premise a lot. Oh well. That’s how it goes.

  9. 9
    joykenn says:

    Frankly I don’t know how a rural doctor would have TIME for a romance.  They keep long office hours cause their patients are coming in from the surrounding area—sometimes driving 50 miles cause they’re in the “nearby” town.  AND, they usually have to visit their patients in the hospital to oversee their care so they may be driving another 75 miles once or twice a day to a nearby hospital.  Hard life especially if they take care of OB patients.  Babies don’t arrive during convenient times!  Sometimes they have offices in a couple of small towns and go 3 days to one and 2 days to the other.  They supervise a receptionist and at least one nurse, maybe a nurse practitioner if they can get one and billing staff.  Combine that with a home life and a woman doctor needs a “wife” to take care of little things like grocery shopping, cleaning, taking the car in for service, waiting for the repairman, etc.  Vacations—might as well plan the Normandy invasion.  A night on the town—just a minor military campaign apt to be interrupted by a patient.  My hat is off to rural healthcare providers!  Romantic…..not so much.

  10. 10
    Lori says:

    Also, I know an unfortunately large number of young doctors who really never have thought about why they want to be doctors – a lot of them got good grades in high school and thought that medicine (or law) was the obvious choice. They get so hung up on success and continuing good grades that they don’t have time to think about why they’re even doctors until they hit their late 20s and are suddenly out in the world, away from their schooling. This doesn’t strike me as at all odd.

    I second this. In fact, I almost was one of those people. I was just a few months away from starting law school when circumstances forced me to postpone. While I was dealing with other things I had the chance to really think about what I was doing. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I had no desire to be a lawyer.

    Now it’s years later and I’m in grad school because I finally figured out what I really want to do. Sadly, many of my fellow students are young people who obviously never climbed off the education treadmill long enough to figure out that they don’t actually want to be here.

    That said, the rest of the book does sound lame. Maybe it’s the subject matter. I recently read another, much better known, story about a female doctor who moves to the sticks and I had a lot of issues with it.

  11. 11
    SB Sarah says:

    This is one of those times where I’m trying to dance around revealing too much while still communicating what it was about the premise that bugged me. In this particular case, I totally understand not questioning a goal until you’re nearly complete or too far into it – I did the same with grad school until I realized, “Duh. You’re miserable.”

    In this case, Maude’s reasons are almost completely external to herself and too over-the-top altruistic for me to believe. Yet, when someone else points out the flaw in her motivation and the truth about her actual self, she gets the picture and changes her worldview and accepts this new interpretation of her life with little to no mental calamity. At which point I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’

  12. 12
    Lori says:

    In this case, Maude’s reasons are almost completely external to herself and too over-the-top altruistic for me to believe. Yet, when someone else points out the flaw in her motivation and the truth about her actual self, she gets the picture and changes her worldview and accepts this new interpretation of her life with little to no mental calamity. At which point I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’

    Oh, oy vey.  I hate that sort of thing.

  13. 13
    Suze says:

    Recently, I read an urban fiction that was really popular, Cast In Shadow, but I really didn’t care for it. I was really bummed because I liked the premise a lot. Oh well. That’s how it goes.

    And I LOVED Cast in Shadow, along with its sequels.  Just goes to show, I guess.

    And I also read “Dog” in the title.  And, honestly, even after I realized it was “Doc”, I thought, “What a stupid title!”  It’s kinda patronizing.  Ooohh, FEEmale doctor!

    I know rural communities aren’t usually on the cutting edge of forward strides in feminism, but to have a chick doctor as a significant plot point?  Not unless it’s a really intense look at gender dynamics and how they impact the characters and how they examine their own assumptions and move through them and become better people in the end.  Pant, pant, gasp for air.

    And if THAT was the point of the story, then a profession in which women are still unusual would have been more useful.  Like, Fire Chief, or explosives expert, or underwater welder or something.

  14. 14
    L. Violet says:

    I had a mental debate over whether he’s calling her dog, as in “Here, Rover! Here, boy!” or his nickname for her is Dog, as in Dawg. Either one proves all the good titles have now officially been used. It also proves the cover designers are all drunk or laid off.

  15. 15
    StarOpal says:

    Add me to the list of totally read it as He Calls Her Dog. ‘Wait… that can’t be right.’

  16. 16

    Add me to the list of totally read it as He Calls Her Dog.

    And I was totally thinking bounty hunter heroine…

  17. 17
    militaryspouse says:

    I was expecting it to be a Diana Palmer.  You know surly hero, bad attitude, good girl,  so yup add me to the “dog” train.

    analysis83:  goes to show I over thought this one.

  18. 18
    Betsy says:

    Definitely looked at the cover and thought the title said “He Calls Her Dog.”
    Hawt.  Either she’s ugly, mean, or he’s more interested in her pet than he is in her…
    But then, I’ve been up studying far too long.  I was bound to start hallucinating at some point.

  19. 19
    Betsy says:

    Aaaaand I should read other people’s comments before I post something totally repetitive.  Sorry.

  20. 20
    SonomaLass says:

    Good information about the Surly Teen Cure—thanks!

    I know that not all category romances take such short-cuts to the HEA, but it is one my biggest reasons for liking relatively few of them.

  21. 21
    MichelleR says:

    I live in a town of 4,000 and most people consider that small, at least when it’s also isolated. I could imagine that this would be the case in parts of Montana. Also, people might be used to traveling a ways to get anywhere, so there might be a draw from other towns within an hour or two of it if this town has the closest doctors.

    So, the town—and I have not the book—could be small, isolated, and support a couple doctors, even a smaller hospital.

  22. 22
    SarahT says:

    A heroine named Maude would put me off. I will forever associate the name with the film ‘Harold & Maude’ and think of a 79-year-old woman.

  23. 23
    MichelleR says:

    Or Bea Arthur.

    I don’t mind the name. All the names we think of as old lady names were, at one point, spring chicken names.

    Would Maude work better for you in a historical setting?

  24. 24
    Kaetrin says:

    I read the title right, but with it being “He Called Her Doc” and the author’s name being Mary BRADY, I was waiting for the “Days of Our Lives” connection!

  25. 25
    Betsy says:

    A heroine named Maude would put me off. I will forever associate the name with the film ‘Harold & Maude’ and think of a 79-year-old woman.

    Maude is one of my favorite heroines!

  26. 26
    Lisa Hendrix says:

    Okay, I saw it as doc, but my mind went to Bugs Bunny—which, btw, might have gotten me to read it even with the D-. I totally love Bugs, but haven’t liked doctor romances since about 1966, when the doctors were all men but the books had some of the same issues you describe here.

  27. 27
    Melissa S. says:

    I’m inwardly giggling at the Super Romance on the cover. It makes me think of a comic books.

  28. 28
    Cora says:

    Female doctor comes to rural community, must deal with sexist stereotypes and eventually finds acceptance in community and love with a good rural man? Sorry, but that story has already been done. By a German movie called “Die Landärztin” (The country doctor). In 1958. Only that the heroine in the German film ends up marrying the studly local vet.

  29. 29

    This title was so close to one by Janette Oke – They Called Her Mrs. Doc – a heartfelt, three-hankie read about a woman who married a country doctor and how their love survived years of rural medicine- that I did a double take when I saw this book at Borders.  I thought WTF!  Then figured for sure it couldn’t possibly be done as well as Janette’s – which had me sobbing at the end – and I rapidly walked away.  Now I’m glad I did.

  30. 30
    SarahT says:

    @MichelleR:

    Would Maude work better for you in a historical setting?

    Actually, yes. But only in a Medieval.

    @Betsy:

    Maude is one of my favorite heroines!

    Mine too! I just don’t see want to imagine her having graphic sex with a hunky romance novel hero, IYKWIM.

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