A delightful, older-woman-younger-man, doctors-in-love romance
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Pages: 248 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Dr. Lena Shapiro is a 39-year-old surgeon in Santa Monica, California who wears many hats professionally. She is a partner in a busy surgical practice, Vice-Chair of the Department of Surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital, a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, and a member of the faculty of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), which is loosely affiliated with St. Mary’s. She has frequently dated fellow doctors over the years, because doctors are the people she spends the most time with. Unfortunately, she never seems to be able to move beyond dating a man for more than a few months before the relationship implodes due to a predictably obnoxious reason. The male doctors expect her to cater to the demands of their careers without making co-equal allowances for the endless demands of her own busy career. Her most recent humiliating dating failure was with a urologist at St. Mary’s, and after that fiasco, she is particularly determined to avoid dating any other doctor from her place of work. In fact, Lena is so burned out on men in general, and her biological clock is ticking so loudly, that she has decided to have a child on her own by going to a sperm bank. Unfortunately, she won’t have any family support. Any assistance from her endlessly critical mother would come at far too high of an emotional price, and her younger sister is too busy catering to her much-older, domineering husband and two demanding kids to be of any help. But where there is a will, there is a way. She will hire a nanny.
Dr. Adam Sterling is a 32-year-old surgeon who, as a second-year surgical oncology fellow, is about to start a four-month rotation at St. Mary’s before returning back East to do cancer research at Sloan Kettering in New York, which is near where his wealthy family resides.
When Lena’s supervisor assigns her to coordinate Adam’s tenure at the hospital due to her connection to CSI, Lena has no interest in supervising yet another male surgeon whose ego will undoubtedly be at least as grossly inflated as the other doctors she’s dated, if not more so, given this guy is some kind of wunderkind.
To Lena’s dismay, she experiences an immediate, unprecedented attraction to Adam, who is not only tall, ripped and handsome, but amusingly witty, brilliant, and obviously as interested in her as she is in him, which he makes immediately apparent by asking her out. After one casual dinner together, Lena rejects Adam’s overtures to have future dates because she is his preceptor, they are at entirely different stages in their lives, and she is tired of relationships that have no future. And when it seems the day after their date as if Adam might have been cynically cozying up to her to get her to write him a good letter of recommendation, she is even more determined to have nothing to do with him outside of work.
Adam’s constant presence at work is so enticing, however, that Lena is desperatingly contemplating going so far as risking the wrath of her boss by asking him to transfer Adam to someone else’s supervision in order to remove temptation from her path. Not only is he beyond gorgeous, but he is a real blessing to work with. He is pleasant to everyone, always smooths her way when they are seeing patients together in the hospital’s outpatient clinic, and they are enormously compatible in the operating room. Their movements are instinctively in sync to such a degree, it feels as if they’ve been surgical partners for years. Adam may not want to continue in the general surgery he has already done for 5 years, which is Lena’s specialty, but he is outstanding at it.
Adam is frustrated by his inability to make any romantic progress with Lena. He is not only extremely sexually attracted to her, he very much likes and respects the woman he glimpsed when they had their sole dinner date together. Behind her frosty, professional veneer at work she is bright and funny, and best of all, when he talks about his cancer research, she is both interested and informed. When Lena rejects any further dates with him by informing him that she believes it would be unethical for her to have a personal relationship with someone whose work she’s supposed to supervise and evaluate, Adam is determined to remove that obstacle from their path. He maneuvers to get himself transferred away from Lena’s oversight to the supervision of Lena’s boss, and does it with such clever tact, there is no blowback on Lena.
Then, suddenly, Lena’s already overloaded life becomes even more difficult when her mother falls and breaks her hip and must move in with Lena until she can heal enough after hip surgery to again independently live on her own. When Adam offers to help Lena with all the extra burdens of caring for her mother, Lena sees him in an entirely new light. No one has ever helped her with her mother and sister. It has always been Lena who has carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.
This is another terrific “doctors in love” romance novel from Jill Blake. As a doctor who knows the LA area very well, she writes very authentically and colorfully about the local setting of Santa Monica and the work setting of a busy surgeon in a hospital.
The story is told from both points of view of Lena and Adam, which allows the reader to get to know each of them intimately. We especially come to deeply understand Lena’s personality and motivation through her fraught relationship with her mother, who is a scrappy Russian immigrant whom Lena feels very loyal to, as the eldest of two daughters, due to all the sacrifices her mother made as a single mother after Lena’s father died when she was a young teenager. But her mother is an extremely abrasive personality who constantly criticizes Lena. I particularly appreciated the deft way that, during the course of the book, some significant romantic conflict between Lena and Adam convincingly springs out of the similarities between how Lena and her mother deal with adversity. They are both extremely independent and greatly resent ever having to depend on anyone else for help.
Both Lena and Adam have strong growth arcs, and it is a fun and fascinating read to experience this couple’s hard work to earn their happy ending. There are multiple sex scenes between the two of them but, as always with this talented author, they are never crude and are never presented just for the sake of filling up pages with sex. It always contributes to the growth and/or conflict within the romantic relationship.
All of the subcharacters in this book are vividly drawn and contribute importantly to the book. In addition to Lena’s mother, her sister and best friend are also particularly well drawn, and fans of women’s fiction with significant female relationships will enjoy the subplots involving these women.
It is a pet peeve of mine when, in romance novels, the author fulfills a prime directive of romance, that the hero must have a ripped physique, without the hero visibly doing anything to earn it. Ditto for a romance heroine’s svelt figure. Lena and Adam both definitely come by their fitness honestly in this book. Adam works out daily at a gym and walks and bikes to work. Lena runs daily.
This book is truly a keeper for me, and I highly recommend it.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Mother Subplot: 5