The Surgeon, by Kate Bridges

>> Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I found a pile of Harlequin Historicals in my TBR, and the main thing I've noticed is the variety. They seem to be the only publisher that wasn't obsessed with the Regency period in the last few years. The Surgeon (excerpt, etc.), by Kate Bridges, for instance, is set in late 19th century Canada and features a Mountie surgeon hero.

book coverA wife shouldn't be a surprise package.

But Mountie surgeon John Calloway suddenly found himself saddled with a special delivery he hadn't signed for - mail-order bride Sarah O'Neill. He had no room in his life for marriage! But why then did he feel compelled to protect Sarah from all things dark and dangerous - including her own unspoken past?

If John Calloway didn't want her, fine! Sarah would survive - and thrive! - without him! The rugged, committed doctor dismissed his proposal as an elaborate prank. So how come the two of them kept finding themselves in each other's arms? And what would Sarah be forced to deny in order to stay there?
A potentially interesting setting and plot, but very bad characterization and dialogue make this a C-.

Mail-order bride Sarah O'Neill arrives at Alberta full of hopes for the future. She's to marry the fort's surgeon, John Calloway, a man whose letters to her make it clear is a kind, thoughtful person. But when she arrives, it's all a surprise to John. It turns out his men had decided to play a joke on the serious minded doctor they tease about seeing the world in black and white, and the idiots' idea of a good joke is to order him a bride without his knowlege... basically, to make a poor woman turn her life upside down and endure a nightmarish 8-day train journey, for nothing. Brainless twits.

When Sarah finds out the truth, she's understandably devastated, but she's got nothing to go back for, so she decides to stay in Alberta anyway. She can work for a living, and also, there's the fact that she suspects she might find her runaway brother there. But several misunderstandings, in addition to the revelation of certain intimate details she'd included in the letters she'd thought she was writing to he future husband, cause Sarah's reputation to suffer, and so she and John, who feels responsible and is starting to think Sarah wouldn't be such a bad choice, end up marrying anyway.

This book just didn't flow. The more I read from my TBR, the more I appreciate authors who write smoothly and don't kick me out of the story every couple of pages. In The Surgeon, the main reason I kept stopping my reading was because I never got the feeling the characters' actions and thoughts were coherent and natural. Half the time, I didn't understand what Sarah was going on about, and never understood why she kept getting angry at John. Both of them kept doing things that didn't really make much sense and had no motivation, other than helping the author complicate the plot.

For instance, there was Sarah's incomprehensible decision to keep the fact that she's trying to find her brother from John. Whyever wouldn't she tell him? No reason, just to cause conflict later in the plot. Or, why wouldn't she just say that the reason she knows so much about guns is that her father was a gunsmith as well as a watchmaker, as so many watchmakers were? Just so that John would assume the worst and to cause a discussion later.That's what I mean by the characters and their actions not feeling natural.

Also, the dialogue and interior monologues felt melodramatic and fake, as did the secondary characters, who were one-dimensional and acted like no normal person would ever act.

The only reason this one didn't get an even worse grade was the interesting setting and the likeable hero (when he wasn't behaving incomprehensively, that is).

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