Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Doctor in Petticoats - Mary Connealy

What happens when an idealistic student nurse encounters an embittered army doctor in a stagecoach accident? How will she react when she learns her training didn’t prepare her for tragic reality? How will he, an army deserter, respond to needs when he vowed to never touch another patient? Can these two stubborn mules find common ground on which to work and bring healing to West Texas?

Heading home to Texas for her sister's wedding, Beth is less than pleased to be sharing her stagecoach with a drunken vagrant. But when they come across another stagecoach that's been involved in an accident, trainee-nurse Beth knows that she needs all the help that she can get. Yet no one is more surprised than she when Alex reveals that he's actually an ex-army doctor. Finally arriving at her hometown, her relatives and neighbours welcome her with open arms, especially when they learn that she's brought a doctor with her. Despite her aspirations to treat the town's residents herself, Beth knows that a female doctor will never be allowed. But Alex is still mentally scarred from the horrors that he's experienced on the battlefield, and insists that Beth help him treat his patients. Her parents are unhappy with this arrangement, until Alex suggests something that even Beth thinks she can agree to - a marriage of convenience. Beth will work alongside Alex, helping to alleviate his fears, and giving her the chance to use her medical skills. Will their marriage remain purely practical, or can it develop into something more? And will Alex's mysterious past ever catch up with him, revealing why he's still having nightmares about the war? 

As you may have noticed, I'm on a historical romance kick right now, especially with novels set in late 1800s USA. Prairie life, homesteading and stagecoaches galore! And Mary Connealy appears to be Queen of these books! I've never read anything by her before but I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for more of her books.

I made the mistake of starting this while studying for my English exam and had to keep tearing myself away. The start of this novel, where Beth is on the stagecoach and comes across the accident, is incredibly fast-paced and sucks you right into the story. Beth's a spunky heroine and takes control of the situation, ordering Alex and the driver around so that she can take care of everyone. Her heart is obviously in the right place, even if she has to beat Alex over the head with his own hat to make him obey her orders!

The chemistry between Alex and Beth is brilliant. While Beth initially finds Alex irritating, they work well together, both as doctor and nurse and as husband and wife. It was lovely to see their relationship developing and I loved Connealy's portrayal of marriage. Not only did this couple have a wonderful equal partnership where they relied on each other, but Connealy made it clear that sex is something to be celebrated between husband and wife. Some books ignore the subject of sex in marriage, or make it seem like a duty, so I'm very grateful to this author for showing that it is something to be both cherished and celebrated! That said, there was nothing graphic or descriptive on the topic of sexuality, just a few sentences here and there hinting that a happily married couple enjoyed spending time together in their bedroom.

While reading the novel I discovered that some of the characters had previously featured in other books - which is excellent as I'd love to read more about Beth's parents! However, I'm more interested in Mandy, the sister whose wedding Beth was heading home for. I really enjoyed the subplot about her in this book, and I'm happy to see that she's the focus of #3 in the Sophie's Daughters series.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I didn't completely love it. While I was initially drawn in by Beth's spunkiness and the quirky and humorous narrative, this petered out after a while. The final conflict was fun to read, but I felt like the focus shifted from Beth to Alex. Of course, I enjoyed reading about Alex too but I found that I preferred the sections of the novel that were from Beth's perspective. I'll definitely be reading more books in this series as I enjoy reading about the McClellan family, but this isn't my absolute favourite historical romance.

If you like your romances to have a quirky narrative and a spunky heroine, this is definitely one to look out for. All three of the books in the Sophie's Daughters series are already on the shelves, so you won't even have to wait to find out what happens next to the McClellan sisters! 8/10

Many thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book.

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