Doctors on the Frontline

Olivia Gates
May 2005, Series Romance
Harl Pres (un-numbered), $4.50, 184 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373820100

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

Available online at eHarlequin.com and amazon.com

When I hear the term "medical romance", I think of romances from the 1950s and 1960s involving innocent, doe-eyed nurses falling for handsome alpha-male doctors. In her debut novel, Olivia Gates goes far beyond the stereotype and delivers a romance set in a war-zone medical relief operation and featuring a hero and heroine who stand as equals.

Dr. Sherazad Dawson left her hospital job in England to serve a temporary term in the Balkans with the Global Aid Organisation. Shortly after arriving in the region, she meets her boss, Dr. Lorenzo Banducci, in a manner that is dramatic, to say the least. While their meeting and initial attraction seems thoroughly improbable from a factual standpoint, it is fun "guilty pleasure" reading.

Dr. Banducci has worked in combat settings for some time and is convinced that he has hardened himself against emotional attachment. However, working with Dr. Dawson leaves him shaken. It is obvious that she has an effect on him that no one has ever had before, and the attraction between these two continues to build as they spend more time together.

The first thing worthy of note here is that this book is only 184 pages long. Gates packs an absolutely amazing amount of action, emotional intensity and character development into those few pages. There are a few times when the writing is a little too purple for me, but for the most part, the story moves at intense speed. While those familiar with the Balkans conflicts and/or relief work may find a few details to quibble with here (such as a relief team looking like anything other than Night of the Living Dead after working a few crisis shifts), the story is a very engaging one.

Though this novel was published in the United States as a Harlequin Presents (it was a Mills & Boon Medical Romance in the UK), it really does not fit the "submissive heroine, rich alpha hero" formula associated with that line. Though Dr. Banducci is Italian, he does not seem to be a millionaire. More importantly, both doctors are cast as equals in this tale. Each has their moments of being rude or overbearing, but they work together as equals and are shown relying on one another's judgment and learning from each other's medical skills. The medical interactions were particularly well-done.

The author's style is entertaining and my only real quibble with it involved her use of medical terms. It is obvious that the author has done her research, but the medical terms and definitions are often inserted awkwardly into the text. While I still enjoyed the book overall, this tendency did pull me out of the story a few times.

If you enjoy medical romance or would simply enjoy the chance to read a romance with an unusual setting, I would recommend Doctors on the Frontline with the qualifications noted above. Though it does have a few rough patches, it is an enjoyable read. According to her website, Gates will be writing for Silhouette Bombshell, so I am curious to see her future work.

-- Lynn Spencer

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