Fantastic, “enemies to lovers” romantic comedy
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: December 6, 2018
Pages: 372 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Twenty-six-year-old Bailey Jennings has acted as guardian to her 14-year-old sister, Josie, for the past six years, since their parents died suddenly in a car accident. She dropped out of college and came home, enrolling instead in a two-year-degree program to become a surgical assistant. For the past four years she has worked at the New England Medical Center, a private hospital with 54 surgeons covering 15 specialties. Her boss is Dr. Lopez, a spinal surgeon who is old enough to be her grandfather. He is a rare gem among typically egotistical surgeons in that he has a jovial, caring temperament, and his whole staff adores him. Bailey not only feels very lucky at having a terrific boss, but she greatly enjoys her job as a surgical assistant in and of itself, and she excels at it.
However, though her professional life is going well, Bailey’s social life leaves a lot to be desired. She has not dated in years because she just doesn’t have the time for it and, to date, no man has shown up who interests her enough to inspire her to make the time. For all intents and purposes, she has been living the life of a dedicated single mother. She scrimps and saves every penny she can so that someday she can afford to buy a house in a nice neighborhood and move her sister out of the scruffy, relatively low-rent apartment they currently live in, which is a short distance from the hospital where Bailey works.
Dr. Matthew C. Russell is a famous spinal surgeon who is the terror of his staff. At around 37 years of age, Matt is the youngest, most hotshot surgeon at the New England Medical Center. He’s been there for the past five years since finishing not one but two fellowships, one in complex spine and the other in pediatric scoliosis. There are four other spine doctors in his department, but he is the only one who specializes in pediatric spine. Dozens of medical staff, medical students and residents, as well as occasional visiting surgeons from around the country, routinely show up at the surgical observation gallery to witness, in complete awe, Matt’s unmatched skill every time he performs a surgery. Most especially because he routinely accepts difficult cases that other spine surgeons are too nervious to attempt. Unfortunately, besides being brilliant, he has a bad reputation for being the most impatient and rude doctor in the hospital. In fact, many present and former members of his staff call him the devil incarnate. He routinely reduces his surgical assistants to tears, and as a result, he has run through five of them in the past year alone. He’s yet to find an assistant who could last longer than a few weeks. The only member of his support staff who isn’t the least bit intimidated by him is his gruff, no-nonsense, middle-aged secretary, Patricia, who has worked for him the entire five years of his tenure at the hospital. Nothing fazes Patricia, and she refuses to take any guff from Matt, ever.
Not surprisingly, Matt is single, and he hasn’t dated in ages. His short-lived marriage during his medical training ended when his wife left him because he neglected her badly in favor of his career. In fact, he’d abandoned her so much that he barely noticed when she left. Ever since, he’s viewed himself as a very poor prospect for a serious relationship.
Unfortunately for Bailey’s career and financial aspirations, Dr. Lopez suddenly informs her that, because he’s had a long, 40-year career and is in his early 70’s, his wife is insisting that it is way past time for him to retire, and he must do it in the very near future. Bailey doesn’t want to have to transfer to another hospital and potentially have to disrupt Josie’s life by moving her to another school, but she may have to, because the only surgical assistant position open in her area of specialty, the spine, is Dr. McMeanie, Matt Russell. He might be devastatingly handsome, with ice-blue eyes, a chiseled jaw, thick, slightly curly brown hair, and a broad-shouldered, athletic build, but he’s more beast than beauty when it comes to his temperament, and the last thing she wants is to work for him. She doesn’t doubt for an instant the persistent rumor that his most recent assistant ended up with an ulcer and PTSD.
Matt has no plans to offer the job as his assistant to Bailey whom, with her beautiful, youthful features and doll-like proportions, he assumes will be too lightweight to be up to the grueling job. But when she stands up to his casual dismissal of her as a viable candidate, in spite of Dr. Lopez’s glowing recommendation, he is stunned by her display of the kind of backbone that no one else at the hospital has ever offered him, not another colleague or attendant at the hospital, and definitely not a surgical assistant. He is inspired, after he gets over his initial shock, with reluctant respect. And when Patricia, who likes no one, says she likes and approves of Bailey and that he’d be a fool to pass her by, it’s the final push Matt needs to seek out Bailey and offer her the job. After a bout of co-equal verbal volleying that they both reluctantly enjoy, Bailey accepts his offer.
And the adventure begins.
This is one of the most fantastic romantic comedies I’ve ever read. The humor comes from the best possible source, witty repartee between Bailey and Matt and multiple subcharacters, and Bailey’s snarky, self-deprecating internal monologues. The sexual chemistry is off the charts between Bailey and Matt, but this is a “slow-burn” romance, which I love. There is no consummation of their sexual relationship until almost 70% into the book. And the sex itself is as much tender and romantic as it is hot. There is no crudeness in the descriptions and no crudeness of language either.
I love the way that the relationship between Matt and Bailey grows gradually from antagonism, to respect, to friendship and not until very late in the book does it move into love–in other words, no “instalove” and no lust substituting for developing a mental and emotional connection that is worthy of the name, true love. Part and parcel of this slow growth of affection is the believable and well motivated way that the two of them inspire a strong personal growth arc in each other. Only the very best romance novels ever manage to accomplish this, and it adds real depth to the story.
The descriptions of Bailey and Matt’s skills in the operating room are riveting, and their relationships with multiple, quirky, well-drawn subcharacters rounds out the story and adds additional humor. Major standouts among these fascinating characters are Bailey’s little sister, Josie, who is adorable, and darling Dr. Lopez. I adore Patricia, a sterling example of the classic, curmudgeon personal assistant.
All in all, this book is a total treasure, a romance novel I will enjoy reading again and again, which is really staying something given that I’m about as jaded a romance reader as one could imagine. Bravo!
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Comedic Elements: 5
Medical Plot: 5