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Just What the Doctor Ordered

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Undercover Honeymoon

The Winner's Circle

Born To Love by Leigh Greenwood
(Leisure, $6.99, PG) ISBN0-8439-5095-1
Holt Price was a doctor during the Civil War, so needless to say he’s a bit turned off from the profession when he arrives in Galveston, Texas, looking for his childhood sweetheart. However, when he comes upon a scene of an accident and the doctor present is visibly drunk - Holt takes charge. When he arrives at Dr. Moore’s home with the wounded in tow, he runs up against a very determined obstacle - the drunken doctor’s daughter, Felicity.

Felicity has spent most of her adult life taking care of her father. After losing his beloved wife to illness, then witnessing the horrors of Andersonville prison - her father turned to whiskey to numb the pain. For several years, she has kept house, been a midwife, and taught herself enough about medicine to protect her father and their only means of support. The war left them with ruined finances, so if Dr. Moore were to lose patients because of his drinking problem they would be finished.

Holt and Felicity immediately butt heads. He thinks her father is an alcoholic. She thinks he’s a righteous S.O.B. who is unwilling to see that sometimes life comes in shades of gray. Naturally there is a fine line between love and hate - and our couple soon find themselves wrestling with the growing feelings they have for each other.

With this third installment of his “Night Riders” series, Greenwood creates two very interesting characters trying to overcome real problems. Felicity is the classic enabler. Her father isn’t an alcoholic - he merely needs a drink now and then. Holt’s accusations that her father is a danger to himself and his patients are quite unwelcome. After all, she’s always around to make sure he doesn’t make a mistake - and just because she’s a woman doesn’t make her any less capable. However, as the story progresses Felicity not only has to admit to herself that her father has a problem, but that she has stopped living her own life in order to protect him.

Holt starts out full of righteous indignation and fury. His own father was an alcoholic and he can’t believe that Felicity would be so blind as to ignore the signs. He’s a man of honor and pride - the kind of man who sees things as either black or white. He too has been living a life of obligation and has only come to Galveston to find his true love, Vivian. He promised his uncle he’s take care of her - and by golly, he is.

With Holt and Felicity both trapped by their own sense of duty, their romance is particularly satisfying to watch unfold. While they start out as adversaries, Greenwood carefully weaves a convincing story of how two lonely souls can fall in love. Better still, it’s a joy to watch Holt and Felicity grow over the course of the story. They are literally better people by the end of it all.

The only thing really holding this story back is Vivian. Why is it that romance heroes’ first loves always turn out to be shrews? Vivian is a real piece of work - and the fact that Holt thinks he’s in love with her not only makes me question his sanity, but his intelligence as well. I liked Holt - I didn’t want to believe he could be so dimwitted.

Greenwood had plans to continue on with the “Night Riders” series, but it appears that Leisure has put the kibosh on it by making Born To Love the third and final book. A shame, since there is some unresolved conflict regarding the series’ villain. Born To Love does stand alone quite well, but readers who like to have everything wrapped up at the end might be a little put off.

Born To Love was my first introduction to Greenwood and I’m practically kicking myself for not trying his work sooner. He has a nice sense of place, and his ability to write interesting, flawed characters dealing with real issues is admirable. It’s a shame that there won’t be any more “Night Rider” books to satisfy my own curiosity, but goodie for me, and other western fans, that the author has a healthy backlist.

--Wendy Crutcher

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