Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TBR Challenge Review: The Surgeon

The Surgeon
Kate Bridges
Historical Romance/Calgary 1889
Canadian Mounties/Book 1
Harlequin/December 2003

From the back page ~

A 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 - an 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?

One of my favorite romance tropes is the mail-order bride. I don't know why, maybe it's the sense of adventure. The mystery of two people getting to know each other after promising to "love, honor & obey". I think part of the appeal is that the mail-order bride almost always heads west and I love westerns. This month's pick for the TBR Challenge is a Kate Bridges Harlequin. I had a number of Ms. Bridges titles to choose from but chose this simply because it is her first novel.

The Surgeon refers to Dr. John Calloway, a Canadian Mountie stationed at Fort Calgary, Alberta. Dr. Calloway is not just a doctor but also a policeman. He has a very black and white outlook on criminals and never forgets that he is a member of the North-West Mounted Police. John holds the admiration and respect of the men at the fort. He is also a bachelor and at 40 years old, an old bachelor. His men decide to change that with the arrival of Sara O'Neill.

Sarah O'Neill has a unique past for a women of her time. Her father was a gunsmith and a watchmaker who taught Sarah both trades. She comes to Calgary in the hopes of not only becoming a bride but finding her brother. It's with happiness that Sarah greets her intended, only to learn that he knows nothing about her. She is horrified at the turn of events and has little recourse but to find a job so she can stay in Calgary and search for her brother. After a misunderstanding and small town gossip, Sarah and John marry. Their marriage doesn't have the best beginning but they do try to make a go of it.

The reality of the marriage is that Sarah and John are strangers. They have a physical attraction and act on that attraction but they still don't know each other. Sarah wants this to be a real marriage and works towards that end. John wants that too but he doesn't change his routine or his attitude when it comes to making decisions. John was a very static character through most of the book. His harsh view of right and wrong keeps Sarah from telling him why she is searching through records and keeping secrets from him. It takes a dangerous situation to make John realize that life isn't always black and white.

The life at a fort in the Canadian wilderness is harsh and beautiful and not the life for the weak. Sarah is able to fit in through sheer tenacity. She makes a few friends and assists John with his patients. I got why John didn't trust Sarah after he discovered she was hiding something from him but he was so unbending in his views. He was attracted to her but didn't trust her which made him really grouchy! He wasn't any easy hero to like and I never really warmed up to him.

Sarah I liked and thankfully she didn't fall into that trap of relying on her man after marrying. She was still an independent woman with her own beliefs, even when they differed from John's. In some ways the story followed a predictable pattern. With John and Sarah falling in lust before love. Misunderstandings and distrust driving a wedge between them. Then a crisis that brings them together. I liked how Sarah and John worked together, even when they were at odds with each other. And the descriptions of the fort and life at outpost town were interesting and kept this from being merely an okay story.

The setting is different and the Mounties are an added bonus. I only wish I liked the hero more. He came across as too stiff and set in his ways. He was lucky to have a woman like Sarah but he took too long to appreciate her, letting his inflexible convictions stand in the way of his happiness. Still, a quick, entertaining read.

Rating: B


  1. Sounds like an interesting book, Leslie. I love the setting and mail-order bride theme. There are other books to this series too. So I'll definitely look them up. :)

  2. Hils ~ I believe most, if not all of Bridges books are set in Canada. I'm looking forward to reading more of her westerns. :)

  3. I think Bridges has ventured into Alaska, but yeah - most of her books take place around western Canada. It makes for a nice change of pace, while still giving her stories that western vibe.

    I have this one, along with a good chunk of her Mountie series, in my TBR. Another early one of hers I liked a lot was The Midwife's Secret. I think that one was only her second book? Very good.

  4. Sounds interesting and different. Funny that it takes place in Canada ;P

  5. Wendy ~ that's right - Alaska features prominently in her books too. I knew that, just sort of forgot. :) I'll have to look up The Midwife's Secret.

    Nath ~ I don't see too many westerns set in Canada but I liked it. :)