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Sunita’s Best of 2010 Review: Dare She Date the Dreamy Doc?...

Dear Ms. Morgan,

You have become of my autobuy, go-to authors, not just in category romance but as a writer of satisfying reads, full stop. The first book of yours I read was a Medical Romance in your Glenmore series, when M&B briefly made it available as one of their free reads. I enjoyed it very much, so when Dare She Date the Dreamy Doc? came out and I saw it was set in the same place, I was immediately interested.

Dare She Date the Dreamy Doc by Sarah MorganGlenmore is a fictional Scottish island which is very busy during the summer tourist season and cold, windy, and underpopulated otherwise. It has limited medical resources because of its size; there is a clinic for routine and manageable illness and injuries, and patients who need more critical care are airlifted to a mainland hospital. The community is small and tight-knit, and most of the people we get to know across the four books are not billionaires, millionaires, or aristocrats.

In Dare She Date, we are introduced to Jenna Richards, who comes to the island to take a position as a nurse after a humiliating and financially unequal divorce from her adulterous husband. Jenna is reluctantly accompanied by her teenage daughter, Lexi, whose hurt at her father’s disinterest in her and unhappiness at having her life turned upside down is almost exceeded by her horror at the poor mobile phone reception on the island. Jenna is attractive but not drop-dead gorgeous, and her husband’s infidelity has sapped most of her confidence. They are met at the ferry by one of the clinic doctors, Ryan McKinley, who is taken aback by how attractive he finds Jenna and how unaware she is of that effect.

Jenna and Ryan’s attraction to each other develops slowly and hesitantly. Jenna has trouble believing such a good-looking man would find her sexy and worries about any effect on Lexi, and Ryan realizes between their work relationship and her recent divorce, Jenna is not really fling material. Despite the clear chemistry between them, they resist for more than half the book. This results in some really great sexual tension, with which you expertly tease and torture the reader. Along the way, while they resist each other, they become friends. The scene right before they finally give in and act on their feelings has some very fun dialogue:

He squinted at the crumpled paper. ""10 reasons why I shouldn't fall in love with Ryan-‘" Ah.'

With a groan, Jenna covered her face with her hands. "Please, just ignore it-‘'

"No.' His voice was calm and steady. "If you can make a list of ten reasons not to fall in love with me, I have a right to know what they are.' He scanned the list and frowned. "I put you off your food? That's why you don't eat?'

Mortified, Jenna just shook her head, and he sighed and tucked the mangled envelope into the back pocket of his jeans.

"If you want my opinion, I don't think it matters that you've been divorced for less than a year, nor do I think your age has any relevance. The fact that I put you off your food might be a problem in the long term, but we won't worry for now. As for Lexi-‘' He stroked his fingers through her hair. "I can see that might be a problem. That's why I stopped when I did. I didn't want her to walk in.'

"So you're not just a sex god.' She made a joke of it. "You're thoughtful, too.'

"For selfish reasons. I want you, and you come with a daughter.'

Did he mean he wanted her body or he wanted her? She was afraid to ask and she found it hard to believe that he wanted her at all. "Why do I always meet you looking my worst?' Jenna couldn't believe the unfairness of it all. He looked like a living, breathing fantasy and she was wearing Lexi's cast off tee shirt.

"I think you look fantastic.' Ryan slid his hand into her hair, studying each tangled curl in detail. "Does your hair curl naturally?'

"Yes, of course. Do you think I'd pay to make it look like this?' She snapped the words, embarrassed that she was looking her worst when he was looking his best, and really, really confused by the way he made her feel.

"I really like it.' His smile was slow and sexy. "You look as though you've had a really crazy night in some very lucky man's bed.'

As this excerpt demonstrates, Jenna is often painfully insecure. She is continually second-guessing herself and wondering whether Ryan’s interest in her can be genuine and lasting. As I initially read the book her insecurity made me impatient, but as I thought about the character, I realized that she reflected the way many women feel in her position, and her unwillingness to fight her ex-husband for her rightful share of the marriage assets is not unusual. As an author, you are very good at creating a character with believable flaws and then following through by depicting the kind of behavior those flaws produce. Jenna’s insecurity made me uncomfortable at times, but then I realized that I would be uncomfortable in real life if I were witnessing this behavior. And that means, I think, that Jenna is a realistic character. Yes, Glenmore is a fictional place, and we know that Jenna and Ryan will get their HEA in less than 200 pages, but they are realistically depicted.

Ryan is not quite as well developed as Jenna, perhaps because this is really her story. He is handsome, thoughtful, sexy and truly caring about the people around him. His backstory is presented in less detail, and veers into unforgiveable-ex territory, but he is an excellent match for Jenna. And he is seriously yummy. Wait, did I say that already?

The plot is relatively straightforward. Jenna and Lexi slowly become comfortable on the island, as Jenna begins to find her feet and her confidence and Lexi makes friends. There is an accident which cements Lexi's place among the locals and allows Ryan and Jenna to show their medical chops, and there is a brief stretch where Jenna gets cold feet and decides she'll be a terrible mother if she gets involved with Ryan. Luckily, Lexi identifies this momentary role reversal and straightens her mother out.

Dare She Date the Dreamy Doc? is not a book which breaks new ground. But it excels at what it sets out to do, and it’s not a by-the-numbers book by any means. Jenna is 33 and never stops thinking about what’s good for her daughter. Ryan is a hottie, and he’s clearly well off, but he’s not a gazillionaire. No one is the handsomest, or the richest, or the most accomplished. No one has a private plane. The conventional aspects of the category form are expertly presented, and the unconventional elements are a breath of fresh air. And best of all, while both Jenna and Ryan have past baggage and emotional issues, they behave like adults. Thank you a thousand times for that.

Grade: A-

~Sunita

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Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley. She blogs as VacuousMinx and tweets as @sunita_p.

12 Comments

  1. wendy
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 05:47:33

    So, there are no actual Scots on this island? An American mother and daughter and an Irish doc?

  2. Sunita
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 06:18:42

    @wendy: Heh. I assume you’re referring to the names? No, everyone is British, so far as I can tell. Jenna and Lexi come up from London, and I think they are English. But not from across the pond. The foreigners on Glenmore are usually English.:-)

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 08:30:28

    I loved this book, too, and reviewed it over at TGTBTU.
    The only quibble I had was with the cover – a surgeon in scrubs?
    The island is, in fact, full of Scots people, but they don’t go around spouting cod-Scots, all the “och aye the nu” stuff is notable for its absence. I could “hear” the accent in my mind as I read.
    The mother and child are English and the doctor Irish, which is fairly common these days. Doctors train all over the place, and go where the jobs are.
    The only thing I found unlikely was the way they were accepted. Scots villagers, islands or no, are really, really insular. You are an incomer until you die. But that wouldn’t have made for such a fun book.

  4. Keishon
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 09:03:24

    Thanks for the review, Sunita. I’ll go and check this one out.

  5. Sunita
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 10:04:38

    @Lynne Connolly: I saw your review and thought it was terrific. In fact, I had to purge it from my mind so that I didn’t just repeat all your points!

    My (admittedly limited) experience with villages and islands in Scotland supports your point. I think the reason the outsider thing worked for me was that it makes sense that they would be more welcoming to medics, given the difficulty of providing high quality primary care in these rural and/or remote locations.

    2 of the 4 Glenmore books feature locals. This one and the first one have outsiders as the main characters.

  6. Anon
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 11:27:43

    @Lynne Connolly: Do surgeons not wear scrubs in the UK?

  7. Tweets that mention Sunita’s Best of 2010 Review: Dare She Date the Dreamy Doc? by Sarah Morgan | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 13:10:56

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  8. Sarah Morgan
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 14:15:55

    Thank you for the lovely review Sunita.

    Having pondered at length on the character of Jenna, I can understand why her insecurities might initially have made you impatient. In many ways it is easier to write a tough, confident character than a vulnerable character (although, of course, ‘tough' often masks vulnerable). When portraying a character with confidence issues, the author treads a delicate line between producing ‘real' and the much dreaded TSTL. Prior to arriving on Glenmore, Jenna has only been in one relationship and that resulted in a teenage pregnancy and a hasty marriage to which she was clearly dedicated. I decided that the rather brutal demise of that partnership would have made it unlikely that she would have embarked on another relationship with any degree of sexual confidence. Her belief in herself grows as she settles into her new life and her relationship with Ryan deepens.

    The other aspect of her background that I felt would have informed her character was the age at which she became a mother. Jenna was naturally warm and maternal, but it seemed to me that her devotion to Lexi was intensified not only by the need to compensate for her ex husband's paternal deficiencies but also by her powerful need to disprove the negative stereotype of the teenage mother.

    Regarding the cover – although it's true that scrubs wouldn't be worn by a General Practitioner (@Anon – surgeons do wear scrubs in the UK, as do some staff in Emergency departments), in a rural community most GPs would be qualified to undertake minor surgery so the cover didn't disturb me unduly (I certainly wouldn't have objected if this particular guy had wanted to resuscitate me).

    I agree with the point made by both yourself and @Lynne Connolly that such a tight knit community would be unlikely to embrace outsiders. I hinted at that in an early scene where a patient interrogates Jenna and is rather unwelcoming, but the main focus had to be on the central relationship so, like you, I made the assumption that anyone prepared to offer their skills in such a remote setting would probably be given a dispensation not offered to others.

    Warm wishes
    Sarah

  9. FiaQ
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 15:10:39

    @Sarah Morgan and @Lynne Connolly:

    The only thing I found unlikely was the way they were accepted. Scots villagers, islands or no, are really, really insular. You are an incomer until you die. But that wouldn't have made for such a fun book.

    I hail from the armpit of hell a upper village in Wester Ross. I don’t necessarily agree with your comment that villagers are “really, really insular”. It depends on each village. Or rather, each community.

    During my time up there, villages nearest to Ullapool, Gairloch and other tourist-friendly towns were open and welcoming to newcomers. People of my village and two neighbouring villages, on the other hand, were so obnoxious toward newcomers that they came across as rude, xenophobic, surly, suspicious, unfriendly and, occasionally, psychotic. (They were indeed all that.)

    IMO, the majority of villages – islands or not – falls between those two. In a typical village, some would be instantly friendly and some would need time to get used to newcomers.

    Like I say, it depends on each village. Or rather, each community. Its “leaders” do influence the way people receive strangers and newcomers. If locals treat newcomers like crap, it’s probably because their community’s social pillars are right arses. I’d imagine this is the same for the rest of the world? I hope so, anyway.

    I haven’t read this book, but I think I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if it describes how islanders welcome newcomers so warmly. Especially if they know newcomers aren’t second-home owners*.

    My eyebrow would twitch if newcomers aren’t bothered about losing their right to privacy, though! :D

    (*Second-home owners are the most detested group because their second homes wreck our local economy.)

  10. Sunita
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 15:13:01

    @Sarah Morgan: Thanks for the comments! I definitely did not think Jenna was TSTL. And unfortunately, I’ve known a number of women whose husbands took advantage of them in divorce settlements, especially women with children. It’s unbelievably frustrating to see, and I think I was yelling at her in my head, both for letting him take her to the cleaners and for letting him continue to blight her life.

    I didn’t mention this in the review, but I also really liked Jenna’s relationship with Lexi. She always put her daughter front and center, but not in a self-sacrificing, doormat way. That is a tough balance to achieve.

  11. Sarah Morgan
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 16:43:29

    @FiaQ:@FiaQ (love the ‘armpit of hell') I understand the second home argument – in so many cases that practice has inflated house prices out of the reach of locals. Lack of privacy is certainly an issue on Glenmore as Jenna discovers – the upside is the sense of community that was lacking in her previous life.

  12. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 04:55:14

    @sunita – Thanks for the compliments! I only give books an A when I get the “happy sigh” moment at the end, and I certainly got one from this book.

    Hi, Sarah, lovely to see you here! I have to say that the acceptance thing didn’t bother me. I thought of it and dismissed it, because I was enjoying the read so much.

    @armpit of hell dweller. One of my two best friends is Scottish. She’s from Glasgow, but she lived in a small village in the A of H for a while, and she hated it. So it’s not the English they pick on!
    Oh yes, and it was from her that I learned that “Sassenach” is better translated as “Foreigner,” which to some minds is the scum that live across the valley or on the other side of the hill!

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