Doctors on the Frontline, by Olivia Gates

>> Friday, September 08, 2006

Reading Doctors on the Frontline, by Olivia Gates, was a very international experience. We've got a book set in the Balkans, with a British heroine and an Italian hero (and the secondary characters include Portuguese, Azerbaijanis, Americans and a few more). Furthermore, the book was printed in Spain, bought in Malta, and then sent to this Uruguayan reader. How about that?

BTW, I've got the book with the cover you see here, but this one was also published in the US as a Harlequin Presents title, and the American cover is quite different. Definitely not as medical looking as the original one!

The moment Sherazad Dawson laid eyes on Lorenzo Banducci——she shot him!

Sherazad has chosen to plunge into the chaos of the Balkans frontline to seek a balancing perspective of her own chaotic life.

While Lorenzo has forsaken a brilliant surgical career to help the forgotten and the forsaken all over the world. He's also forsaken any expectation of a normal life and emotional involvement in his perilous lifestyle, living only for the day. But Sherazad blasts her way into his life and nothing is the same any more. Soon working side by side has their initial overwhelming attraction flaring into a raging affair.

But will she get over her scars and fear of commitment? And even if she does, can he place his emotions for her above his vocation?
Well, this was certainly different. The romance was a bit Harlequin Presents-ish, but this isn't necessarily bad (see my comments about Nalini Singh's Awaken to Pleasure, for instance), and here it wasn't, either. But this romance develops before a truly fascinating backdrop, that is the hero and heroine's job as, as the title explains, doctors on the frontline. A B.

When British doctor Sherezad Dawson's life went to hell back home, she decided to volunteer with Global Aid Organization and she's been sent to the frontlines in the Balkans. She knows it's going to be harrowing work, but she really wasn't expecting such horrors. And she wasn't expecting to meet her new boss when he rescued her convoy from attack, either.

Italian Dr. Lorenzo Banducci is a man dedicated to his work. He's been in the frontlines for years now, and everyone knows he'll stay there forever, and that he's practically married to his job. But he finds himself more and more drawn to the new addition to his team, and as the days go by and the moment when Sherezad will have to leave comes closer, they'll have to decide what will happen.

This is an extremely short book that feels much longer than it is. I was very impressed by how Gates managed to tell her story in under 200 pages, because it was a story complete with good development of a romance from scratch (I mean, this is not a couple who are already involved as the book starts, and we explore only a certain aspect of their relationship. Sherezad and Lorenzo haven't met as the book starts), plus an excellent look at what the work of doctors like Lorenzo and his team might be like. And Gates did it without her story feeling crammed or without it feeling as if anything was underdeveloped.

Well, one might say we didn't get enough background on the hero and heroine's past, but I'd argue that while we didn't go into any deep analysis there, what Gates did tell us was enough to give us a good clue of where these two characters were coming from. For instance, we understand perfectly well what caused Sherezad's fear of relationshps, and why Lorenzo is so dedicated, even if we're not really hit over the head with constant repetitions of their past. I'd rather call this being subtle when it comes to characterization ;-)

The only place where I thought we should have had a bit more insight into the characters' motivations was near the end, in Lorenzo's case. There comes a point after which we just aren't privy to what he's thinking, so we're just as much in the dark as Sherezad about what he intends to do. Well, ok, I guess this is a perfectly valid way to write it, but I would have liked to know much more about what was going through his mind when he made several huge decisions about the direction his life was going to be taking.

I very much enjoyed the glimpse we got of their jobs. This is a book in which the external conflict isn't really one constant thing, like a villain who's after our hero and heroine. Well, actually, it is one main thing, but it's the war itself, impersonal, but just as dangerous and tragic as if it were after our hero and heroine in particular.

There was a definite ER feel to some of the medical scenes, in that I hadn't the slightest idea of what these people were talking about, but I did get the message that such and such technical term means the patient is in great danger, and that the tension is going up. From her bio in front of the book, Gates is a doctor, and she puts her medical experience to good use here.

On the romance front, I quite liked the relationship between Lorenzo and Sherezad. The "regular" part was just ok, but I loved how their relationship developed on the job, how Gates showed that they respected each other's skills and judgement and I thought this spilled out onto their personal, romantic relationship.

I've just seen in Gates' website that she's got another Mills & Boon book, called Emergency Marriage, that's set in Argentina. That's probably as close as I'll come to having a book set near my home, so I'm going to give it a try, even though it sounds terribly HP-ish and every single category book I've read set in South America has been awful.


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