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Marion Lennox

REVIEW: Mardie and the City Surgeon by Marion Lennox

REVIEW: Mardie and the City Surgeon by Marion Lennox

The last person Mardie Rainey expects to see on her doorstep is her childhood sweetheart, Blake Maddock. Fifteen years ago, Blake Maddock had walked away, leaving her teenage heart sore and broken. But now—with a thunderstorm raging overhead—she can’t turn him away, nor the injured border collie in his arms….

Blake Maddock spent his life running from one tragic mistake… Now the frightened boy has become a formidable man—and he’s coming back for the woman he has never forgotten….

Marion Lennox Mardie and the City SurgeonDear Ms. Lennox,

Recently I met fellow DA reviewer Sunita, which was a blast, and as book lovers do, of course we talked about books. We agree that one of our least favorite tropes is the “I kissed you once 10 years (or more) ago and have never forgotten it nor moved on with my life.” Argh, I hate this. So imagine my happiness when you made it very plain that Mardie hadn’t waited and faded away, she hadn’t lived in stasis since Blake left. She’d loved another man, married him, had a good and satisfying life before losing him. She still loved him in a way that was all his though there was room in her heart for another. Yeah, that’s another trope I dislike: the “I’ve loved and lost and will never love again!” Hate that too. Thank you for this.

I seriously enjoyed the sections about the dogs. They are such a part of these peoples’ lives that a story without them would feel incomplete. The parts with Charlie and Bessie working again and later at the funeral had me almost bawling. Would have had I been home but I had to hold it together at work. Still these are lovely scenes of how much dogs love and are loved and love to be useful.

Another wonderful thing about the story is that when Blake returns fifteen years after he left and shows up at Mardie’s door, she doesn’t turn into mush – well, perhaps for a minute in surprise but then she gets over it. And lets Blake know that she hasn’t wrapped herself up and mourned his loss all this time. He left, she was sad but then she got over it. She moved on. She’s lived a successful life and hasn’t thought about him or wondered about him. She took her passion for art and has made a name for herself as well as finding happiness teaching arts courses. I was bouncing in happiness through all this. Oh, and I loved it when she called him on how he viewed her life since she hadn’t gone overseas and saved children’s lives. And even after Blake makes a half hearted and emotionally induced proposal, she is wise enough to turn him down because she knows it’s still all wrong. Yeah, Mardie!

It’s wrong and Mardie insists that it be right. She probes Blakes’ reasons for not wanting to stay in Banskia Bay, she offers encouragement and mentions the therapy that helped her past the loss of her husband but she doesn’t push it or make ultimatums. She – and Blake – realize that neither will be happy trying to make a marriage work at their present stage. Yes, this takes the story down to the wire but I needed for them to work all this out to their satisfaction before I’d believe in their HEA.

And Blake does have some serious issues in his past. Some screwed up parents and a guardian aunt who wasn’t much better. Again I appreciate that this isn’t just a pity party on his part but some deep seated emotional mess that goes back a ways and must be dealt with. The way you described why he had to leave Banksia Bay and why he never contacted Mardie makes sense. He needed to leave this place that he saw as an exile where his parents sent him and if he’d talked to or written to Mardie, he wouldn’t have been strong enough not to crumble. When Mardie is finally given a window into what has driven Blake all these years and what still continues to haunt him, she knows these are things she might be able to help with – a little – but she can’t solve them for him. Nothing gets papered over or shoved under a rug with these two. They hurt each other somethimes with what they say but no punches get pulled and I like that.

Blake’s reasoning about why he needs to leave Banksia Bay and Mardie now also makes guy sense – he’s afraid he’ll hurt her by getting involved while he’s there – and planning to leave. It’s here that I can sort of see the start of his change of heart. Before, he’s wanted to leave to escape bad memories or to in some way make up for his twin’s death but now, emotion for Mardie is starting to seep through. I like that the time frame of the story allows for these slower shifts in emotion since there’s a lot to be dealt with and sorted out. Over the course of fixing Bessie’s eyes and the fund raising dinner and the month long recovery needed for the dog, Blake gets time to think and time to slowly see Mardie and Banksia Bay not as escapes anymore but as a person and a place that are home to him. There’s also the fact that they still have that connection they had years ago of being able to tease each other and almost know what the other is thinking that they’ve never lost.

Their ultimate realization that they’re both ready, willing and in an emotional place to finally get together for good is sweet and gentle and plays out in a way true to the setting of the story. Thanks for another enjoyable excursion with these salt of the earth people – and their dogs! B


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REVIEW: Nikki and the Lone Wolf by Marion Lennox

REVIEW: Nikki and the Lone Wolf by Marion Lennox

Dear Ms. Lennox,

I’m always happy to find a new novel by you when I’m browsing the Harlequin site, and when the cover (accurately) includes a dog, I’m immediately downloading. This book is the second in your Banksia Bay series, the first of which Jayne reviewed here. While both books are set in the same place and have plots revolving around stray dogs, the stories are independent and stand alone. This is an unusual book in several ways, but I found it a satisfying and enjoyable read.

Nikki and the Lone Wolf by Marion LennoxNikkita Morrissy is a thirty-year-old professional from Sydney. She’s retreated to the seclusion of Banksia Bay after finding out that her boss and lover of four years had a wife and family half a world away (with any other author I would be out of here now, but it’s you, so I keep going). Nikki rents half of a duplex cottage from the live-in owner, Gabe Carver, a local fisherman who is notoriously unsociable. They manage to avoid each other for three weeks, but then they collide in an attempt to rescue an abandoned dog. This dog is huge, shaggy, malnourished, and desperately missing his owner, who has sailed away and apparently isn’t giving him a second thought.

The local animal shelter has reluctantly decided that he isn’t able to be adopted and so will be put down when he’s captured. But Nikki, who has never had a dog, falls in love with him, matted hair and all, and decides to take him in pending Gabe’s approval. Gabe recently lost his canine best friend of sixteen years and doesn’t want the dog around but has no good reason to refuse Nikki, especially after a couple of the townspeople enthusiastically offer to help her learn about dog care and training. Slowly and reluctantly, Gabe grows closer to both Nikki and the dog, and all three learn to live less in the past and look forward to the future.

One of the things I like most about your stories is that the people feel real and worthy of the reader’s respect. Nikki is an engineer who designs commercial air-conditioning systems and is both successful and highly paid. When she breaks off the relationship with her boss she doesn’t throw up her job but finds a way to do it from Banksia Bay. Over the course of the novel Nikki does change to a different occupation, but her reasons for doing it make sense, and they are motivated by changes within herself. Gabe is genuinely surly and antisocial, and he has good reason to be. And although he is the owner of a fishing business that is crucial to the town’s economy, he is still very much an everyday fisherman. For both of these characters, work is a critical part of their lives, and the story reflects that.

This is definitely a book for animal lovers. There is a lot of time devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of Horse, the aptly named dog. Parts of the book are heartbreaking for a dog person like me, for example when Horse runs away to find his worthless master. You don’t sugarcoat what it takes to rescue a dog, and it’s clear you know what you’re talking about. I was pretty sure that Horse would also have an HEA, and I’m glad to say he does, or this review would have to come with a trigger warning.

Nikki and Gabe need rescuing as much as Horse does, but as is often the case in your books, they rescue themselves and then commit to a relationship, rather than using insta-love to make their individual problems go away. Nikki is quicker to acknowledge that she’s fallen for Gabe than he is to admit his feelings, but she refuses to become a doormat in the process:

He wanted her–she could see it, she could feel it, she could almost touch it. But he was … afraid?

“You”re not like your father,” she said as evenly as she could. “But I’m not Lisbette, either.”

“I know that.”

“You don’t,” she said. “Otherwise you’d check my pipes for me, right here, right now. Trust me, Gabe.”

“I do.”

“No, you don’t. And whether you can learn … You can’t open yourself a little and protect the rest. That’s what Jonathan did. That’s what I’m used to and I’ve moved on. I think … I think I love you, Gabe, but I’m not going to love a man who spends his life protecting his boundaries.”

She stepped back. Hoping he’d stop her.

He didn’t and she felt sick.

Feeling bad was dumb. She should give him space.

She had to give him space.

Like she’d given space to Jonathan?

“Goodnight, Gabe,” she said as firmly as she could. “Thank you for a wonderful dinner. Horse and I loved it. See you … see you tomorrow. Come on, Horse, bed.”

Gabe eventually comes around, of course. If readers are looking for a good grovel in this book, they won’t find it (and Gabe does a few things that merit a grovel). Instead you give us a dog-in-jeopardy scene and a rescue that fits the tone of the story and lets the community give back to Gabe a bit of what he’s provided to them over the years. And we know he’s finally wised up, because he lets them.

Grade: B

~ Sunita

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