Emergency Marriage, by Olivia Gates

>> Tuesday, October 24, 2006

After my complaints in the comments of Doctors on the Frontline about how hard it was to get some of Olivia Gates British-published Mills & Boons (I could only buy her two Bombshells, which I'm looking forward to reading), the author herself was kind enough to send me the four books in her backlist that I was missing.

My first impulse was to read the Argentina-set Emergency Marriage (excerpt). Then I saw that The Heroic Surgeon's heroine was a secondary character I'd found very intriguing in DOTF, so I changed my mind. Only to change it again, and go with my first choice. But I'll definitely read The Heroic Surgeon next! ;-)

A marriage made in...crisis!

Dr Laura Burnside is pregnant, single and alone. Her dream job as head of Global Aid Organization in Argentina has been snatched out of her hands by the arrogant Dr Armando Salazar. She has nowhere to go. And then Armando makes a proposal that turns her world upside down.

Marry him. Give her child a father. Continue her vital emergency work in this beautiful country. And give in to the passion that has raged between her and the devastating Argentinean since their first meeting...

Olivia Gates returns to the dedicated men and women of the Global Aid Organization - international medical drama and passionate affairs!
Just like DOTF, Emergency Marriage gives us a good romance against a fascinating, action-filled backdrop. A B.

Dr. Laura Burnside went to Argentina to head the Global Aid Organization there and help rebuild medical services after the big economic crisis at the end of 2001 crippled the local system. When she arrived, however, things didn't go as she'd hoped. Diego, the Argentinian man she'd been having an online relationship with (one of the reasons she was so excited to be going to Argentina) was a disappointment, for some strange reason she became the darling of the paparazzi and her constant efforts to get things done met with very little success.

But things could get worse, and did. Diego didn't take their break-up well and a fit of reckless driving left him dead and Laura gravely injured. And his cousin Armando, also a doctor, managed to manouver things in such a way that, as the local counterpart to the GAO operation, he sidelined Laura and her team. And did I mention Laura accidentally got pregnant by Diego?

But in steps Armando, who's been very attracted to Laura from the very beginning. Armando offers her a marriage of convenience, ostensibly so that she can stay in Argentina without her child having to bear the heavy stigma of illegitimacy. Laura accepts. But between the constant dangers they both face and the possibility that Diego's memory will come between them, will they be able to turn their marriage of convenience into a real marriage?

When I started reading this book, the setting was at the same time what drew me to it and my main reservation. Uruguay, for those of you who don't know, is right next to Argentina (see map), and as it often happens when a tiny country neighbours a huge one, we're always very much aware of what's going on there. There's a saying here: when Argentina catches a cold, Uruguay sneezes. So I knew that if the author got anything wrong, I was going to notice.

Well, I was very impressed. Gates did make some mistakes, but it was mostly small ones, stuff like the language not being always right. But compared to the things she did right, this didn't even begin to register.

What I loved the most was that the setting here was recognizable to me as Argentina. Most books set in a Latin American country feel very generic... the politicians are corrupt (and usually dictatorial), the men are macho, the people are long-suffering, there are guerrillas in the hills and... uh, that's about it. And I'm not talking about just Harlequins, though Harlequin Presents are probably the worst offenders.

This Argentina wasn't generic. And not only that, it didn't feel like my country, it didn't feel like Chile, it didn't feel like Paraguay, it didn't feel like any other Latin American country; it felt like Argentina, and like Argentina a couple of years after the 2001 crisis, too. There were the demonstrations and protests that can turn violent at the drop of a hat (only the day after I finished this book, there were clashes on the streets of Buenos Aires when the body of Peron was moved from one cementery to another), there were the floods (I suppose inspired on the Santa Fe floods of 2003), there was even a factory occupation (though I thought the attitude towards this was a little simplistic).

And not only that, there were plenty of other details that rang true, like the very fact that GAO's mission was to help restore the healthcare system that had pretty much been destroyed, or Armando's history (with those hints that he'd lost a lot of money during the crisis), the conflict between the local doctor who knows the way things are done in Argentina and this American doctor coming in trying to import her protocols and procedures, which are not really adequate to the situation and many more.

The only thing that felt wrong was the whole deal about how it would be such a horrible stigma for Laura's child to be born out of wedlock, so she needs to enter a marriage of convenience. Er, no, that's just not so anymore. In that, Argentina is just like Uruguay, and that has stopped being a big deal. Even Chile, a supposedly very conservative country when it comes to social issues, has chosen a woman who's a single mom as their President.

But anyway, I'm sure you're thinking, enough with the setting, how was the story itself? Well, I liked it. The characters are interesting, and the marriage of convenience, however much I doubted the reasoning behind it, puts them in a situation of close proximity that created some very good romantic and sexual tension.

Armando was an especially likeable character. He is half in love with Laura from the beginning and wants a real marriage, but he fears she might still have feelings for Diego. Maybe I'm a bit sadistic, but I love this type of plots.

At first, Armando comes across as a bit high-handed and domineering, maybe even sexist, especially given the way he forces Laura out of the way. But right after that, we begin to see that isn't quite right. The reasons behind his actions that sidelined Laura and her team were justified, and though he is an alpha (and therefore, yes, his personality's pretty dominant), this is a guy who has no problem accepting that he's been wrong and apologizing for it. Such an attractive quality! And I liked that he respects Laura's medical abilities and doesn't second-guess her opinions and actions.

Laura was as interesting a character as Armando: a competent, idealistic doctor trying to prove her worth in spite of her socialite reputation. I appreciated that, as Scherezad's in DOTF, Laura's backstory was pretty subtly drawn. Her past story with Diego is barely touched upon, just enough for us to understand perfectly what happened. It was a good choice, I thought. This is a short book, so if too much time had been spent on backstory, there wouldn't have been much space left to fully develop the romance.

The only thing I wish I'd known more about was Laura's history growing up, the reason why she so fears that staying with Armando might not be the best choice for her child. Or rather, I wish we'd known about it a bit earlier. Without this, Laura's fears seem unfounded for a long time.

Anyway, so far, Gates' books are two for two with me. I'm hoping the others will continue this trend!


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