Kimani, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-86334-1
Contemporary Romance, 2013
The cover art – a doctor wearing his coat with no shirt underneath, which seems rather unsanitary to me – and the title may give one the impression that this story features a medical practitioner as a hero, but both the hero Justin Silver and the heroine Lora Rice are actually medical researchers. True, they are still “doctors”, but not the kind of “doctor” that the packaging of this book would suggest. And this is my public service announcement of the day – you guys can thank me later. Just know that this isn’t a romance in a medical setting like you may be led to think at first.
Dr Lora Rice and Dr Justin Silver are colleagues and rivals vying for the same fellowship. She hates his guts – or so she insists – due to some unhappy incident in the past, but he actually likes her a lot and doesn’t know how to deal with his infatuation well. He is flummoxed when she decides to focus her attention on a handsome male colleague who also happens to be Justin’s nemesis. However, he would soon get his chance, although he has his own reasons for fear that a happy ending with Lora may not be in the cards.
I appreciate Dara Girard’s efforts in not trying to serve a formulaic contemporary romance, but Snowed in with the Doctor never comes together well.
The author doesn’t make the effort to ensure that her characters get together organically – she inserts very obvious plot developments to push those two together. Her efforts often end up making Lora look like a fool. Lora is supposed to be brilliant but emotional, but she comes off as just overemotional. She chases after a guy whom the author turns into a caricature of a villain, making the poor dear look like a big fool in the process. Ms Girard also rarely allows Lora to be right in other things, making Lora’s initial dislike of Justin seem like non-stop melodramatic overreaction of someone who let her emotions get the best of her all the time. Even when Lora finally gets one up over Justin, she feels no glory because everyone thinks that he should have been the better of the two of them, and she follows that hollow victory with a decision to quit. All of Lora’s insecurities and informed intelligence (the poor girl doesn’t seem to have two brain cells to rub together, unlike what the author keeps telling me about Lora) are designed to ensure that she has no choice but to take Justin as her true love, and in the process, these elements cripple Lora’s character, turning her into a nincompoop of the first degree.
As for Justin, he’s a guy who needs to check his pulse to confirm that Lora sets his loins on fire. The only way this almost cartoon version of an awkward nerd can work if he’s actually a fourteen-year old genius and has just graduated from medical school, but I guess that would turn this story into something else altogether that would make the FBI frown. Both he and Lora are exaggerated caricatures – they all think, feel, and act in extreme, and behaving like reasonable human beings seem to be something they are incapable of.
All these antics come to a head for some amusingly cloying and sentimental “Oh no, disease of the week!” moments late in this story, but because the characters never seem to resemble actual human beings up to that point, these moments are more unintentional comical than anything else.
There are many ways that I feel this story could have worked better. The other guy could have been just another guy instead of some cartoon bad guy, for example, to ensure that the heroine doesn’t seem like a complete fool. The author could have also given Justin some serious character flaws so that Lora’s initial dislike of him is grounded in reality instead of just her going off the deep end again. This story has some pretty good potential for complicated emotions and ethical drama, so it’s pretty sad that the author chooses to take short cuts and make her characters resemble cartoon characters instead. Snowed in with the Doctor is just too histrionic at the end of the day to be taken seriously.