My favourite M&B line

>> Monday, July 21, 2008

Mills & Boon Medical has fast become my favourite M&B line. I tried a couple at first that had a bit of a Presents-ish feel to them, which isn't something I particularly enjoy, but since I've got some author recommendations, I've had much better luck. Marion Lennox, for instance, has become a fave. What I most like here is that the heroines are usually in the medical profession as well, so they tend to be highly competent and in a position of relative equality to the hero. Oh, and the Australian settings! I seem to be liking mostly the Australian ones, for some reason.

TITLE: The Surgeon's Family Miracle
AUTHOR: Marion Lennox

This is a reunion/secret baby story. Lily Cyprano and Ben Blayden met in medical school and fell in love. They always knew their relationship wouldn't last beyond school, though, because Lily was committed to return to practice medicine at her homeland, the island of Kapua, while Ben wanted a life of adventure and travelling. So when Lily discovered she was pregnant right before she was due to return home, she said nothing to Ben, knowing that he'd do the right thing but resent her forever.

Eight years later, Ben is working as a frontline doctor for a Special Forces team and they're called to Kapua, where there's a bloody coup attempt. He and his team arrive to find the rebels holed up with hostages and Lily, the island doctor, frantic about one of them, her son Benjy.

This was quite good. The opening scenes, especially, with the coup attempt and the arrival of the Special Forces team, were fast-paced and exciting, and very good at giving us an idea of who these characters are now. The story did lose a bit of steam afterwards, as Ben and Lily were nice, but not particularly exciting together, but it was nice enough on the whole. I actually liked how the secret baby angle was handled, because as much as Ben now thinks Lily should have told him about her pregnancy, he does admit that his reaction would have been what she expected.


NOTE: I must be softening, but I really like the cover. The kid really seems to be having fun, and so does the guy!

TITLE: The Doctor's Rescue Mission
AUTHOR: Marion Lennox

The setup of this one is very similar to that of The Surgeon's Family Miracle. The protagonists have a history together, but she had to leave him and Australia to become responsible for the health care needs of a small, isolated island. When disaster hits her island some years later, the hero shows up as part of the emergency rescue team, and the relationship recommences.

In this case, the disaster in question is a tsunami, which kills a bunch of people and sweeps away much of the island's infrastructure. This is an April 2005 book, and there's a clearly hastily affixed sticker at the back telling readers that the book was written before the Asian tsunami and that there was a donation made by M&B to the relief fund. Wow, Lennox was amazingly prescient! I suppose it must have been chilling to read it right after it came out.

Again, the opening scenes were excellently done, very exciting and interesting. However, in this case the book continued just as strong. In part, I liked it better because of the heroine, Morag. At the same time that she feels responsible for the island, she does resent having to be there and not having been able to have the life in Australia that she was planning on having.

Also, the conflict between Morag and Grady, what prevented them from just getting back together, was very interesting. As I said, the tsunami has completely destroyed the community's infrastructure. It was already costing the government a ton of many to maintain services to such an isolated area, so there had been some overtures to try and settle people somewhere else. Now, considering the immense expense and difficulty of repairing what's been flattened, the government is even more serious about resettlement, and Grady has been charged with doing a kind of preliminary evaluation of how viable what's left is. Morag, on the other hand, is determined that they WILL rebuild, and not lose the community spirit by resettling elsewhere (not to mention that the Aboriginal settlement on the island won't be abandoned).

Interesting, no? I enjoyed seeing Morag and Grady work around the issue, even while thinking Lennox's implicit arguments were much too simplistic. I got the feeling that we readers were supposed to automatically sympathise more with Morag and her efforts to keep Petrel Island going, but I wasn't so convinced. I kind of felt the argument was mainly: how can you be so heartless to think about the money when there's the life of a community and its spirit to be considered? Well, I think I must have spent too much time working as a government economist, but I found this reasoning really flawed. It's not heartless to think about the money, it's necessary. That money is coming out from somewhere. Financing a huge project such as this one means resources taken away from or not devoted to other uses. The government has limited resources, however rich it might seem to people, and it has to decide how to use them best. What is best for society? Rebuilding Petrel Island or more funds for, I don't know, cancer research? Rebuilding Petrel Island or funds for free childcare? Of course, it can be: rebuilding Petrel Island or more tax cuts to the rich?, but the thing is, that's not obvious. It could be anything, and it has to be considered. And it's not heartless to think that other things might be more valuable than rebuilding one particular community.

Anyway, off from my soapbox, sorry for the rant! All in all, a good book, with a nice romance and issues which made me think.


TITLE: Bride by Accident
AUTHOR: Marion Lennox

Yet another Marion Lennox that starts with a bang. Or rather, a crash, in this case. A school bus crashes right outside an isolated Australian community, and Dr. Devlin O'Halloran rushes to help, only to find that the pregnant woman in another of the cars involved in the accident (and who ends up helping out quite heroically) is also Dr. O'Halloran. Emma O'Halloran is Devlin's brother's widow, on her way to meet her late husband's family, who know nothing about her.

Emma's pregnancy is very advanced, and the accident ensures that she can't get on a plane until the baby is born. So she stays at Devlin's place and in the process, helps both him and his mother come to terms with her husband's death, and the whole community get over the tragic school bus accident.

I really liked BBA. It's got a pretty melancholic tone, which is fitting, as the story is as much about people allowing themselves to grieve and heal as about Devlin and Emma finding love with each other. Lennox does this well, and the story is touching and heartbreaking, without ever becoming maudlin.


TITLE: Coming Home to Katoomba
AUTHOR: Lucy Clark

This is the sequel to Crisis At Katoomba Hospital, which I read and enjoyed a few months ago. I'd found the heroine, who's the sister of the hero of the previous book, an interesting character. Stephanie is a very competent doctor with a quirky sense of humour, happy enough to shave her head to support her cancer patients and dye her stubble green.

In CHTK, she falls in love with newcomer Oliver, the new hospital chief (or administrator, I forget the exact title. He's in charge, at any rate). Her house had burned down shortly before he arrived and she was living at a friend's, but there was some mix-up with the property agent, and the house ends up having been rented to Oliver as well. They decide to share, sparks fly, even when Oliver's young daughter comes visit, etc., etc.

This was a nice book until the halfway point, when Steph goes a bit psycho. So there's chemistry between her and Oliver, they like each other, they feel a connection. They've done nothing more than share a few kisses and feel something real might develop, when Stephanie suddenly decides she loves Oliver. Ok, a bit sudden, but ok. But then, when he says he thinks they should date, get to know each other better, etc, she just goes batshit crazy and starts accusing him of using her and telling him he needs to make a commitment and blah, blah, blah. Mind you, it's been only a couple of weeks since they've even met! I thought Oliver was just proceeding the normal way, and that it was Steph who was completely out of line. But no, everyone else seems to find her behaviour perfectly justified, while I was going WTF?? At one point Oliver wonders "had he really behaved so badly?" He answers "yes" to himself, but I'd say "Definitely not".

I also disliked the demonisation of Oliver's ex wife. She's a completely cartoonish figure here, and it irritated me.


TITLE: Pregnant on Arrival
AUTHOR: Fiona Lowe

The title of this one is more accurate than most: Dr. Bronte Hawkins discovers her pregnancy on her arrival to a small outback town, where she's joining the area's Flying Doctors team. Huon Morrison was looking forward to getting a new partner who could share his backbreaking workload, and is now quite angry that the new partner has turned out to be pregnant and obviously will be going back as soon as she can. But Bronte is determined to stay, and soon he's helping her settle in Muttawindi and feeling more and more of an attraction to her.

I loved the portrayal of Bronte and Huon's day-to-day work, providing medical care for the people living in a wide area of the Australian Outback, whether over the phone or radio or flying all over the place on emergency calls. There's a variety of interesting cases, and Lowe gives us a fascinating glimpse of what an outback doctor's life might be like.

The romance? Nice. Nothing to phone home about, but on the other hand, nothing that bothered me, and the setting and the other stuff that was going on around them was strong enough to earn this a recommend.



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