A tough lawman and an independent-minded female doctor in a small town agree to a fake engagement to get all the marriage-minded people off their backs. I thought this sounded like it was bound to be a fun caper because we all know how playing with fate can work. Now I must let you know that this is the second book in the McCabe series. The first book is about the cousin who appears frequently in this story and a loose end from his past plays a part in this book. That being said, this one will function easily as a standalone. I read it out of order and had no trouble following the story.
Zach McCabe is a US Marshal with his office located in post-Civil War Greenville, MS. He loves serving his community and protecting them, but he can’t go five feet without tripping over a single female with a plate of cookies or a ticket to the box social. Why couldn’t they all be like Suzanne Martingdale who was antagonistic if anything toward him?
Dr. Suzanne Martingdale has fought hard to finish up her training and earn her place as a doctor. She takes her work seriously and has no intention of leaving her chosen vocation to stay at home, keep house and raise her husband’s family. Lonely? Sure, but there will never be a man who will respect her need to be a doctor. Not Marshal McCabe who isn’t too impressed with her staunch need to exert her independence that’s for sure. What to do about the rest of the male population of Greenville who force their way into her life at inconvenient times seeking to court her?
Zach comes up with the perfect solution and Suzanne agrees. They will pretend to court and then become engaged. That will leave them in peace long enough for the singles’ population to move on and leave them alone. They go about with their deception letting in on the secret Zach’s McCabe relations so feelings are not hurt. So why do every last one of them seem to have a twinkle in their eye or twitches to their lips when they heard the plan?
During the fake courtship, other things come up like sabotage at the mill, enemies of the McCabes with a vendetta, medical emergencies and very real passions arise between the two fakers. It all comes to a head after a family crisis that once averted sends them hard into each other’s arms and Suzanne’s bed. She wants to keep it strictly physical and Zach agrees, but Suzanne soon learns that keeping Zach McCabe at arm’s length while making love in his arms is an impossibility. The independent woman doctor isn’t so sure about her choice and the marshal who swears off on marriage is now giving it due thought until Suzanne is given the chance of a lifetime and she must choose.
It was light on the historical and heavy on the romance and turned out just as I thought with the addition of a few dangerous situations and a surprise twist just to keep stuff interesting. So seeing the end from the beginning, I just settled in to enjoy what unfolded. The story is narrated by both hero and heroine.
The pace drags a bit in places which caused me to get impatient. Honestly, the thing with her ex seemed totally unnecessary and just added pages. There were so many other barriers that were already there and were more organic to the story. There were already dangerous sabotage and revenge scenes and their seeming difficulty balancing out their relationship difficulties. I was a little disappointed that there was a lack of real southern history here with reconstructionism and carpet bagging stuff which reminds me- Suzanne should have never been accepted as she was a Yankee let alone a doctor in such a rural setting in Mississippi. So as I mentioned…very light on the historical.
I loved that Zach as the marshal had a real case to work on and that he had to use that gun that he toted around (even if this and the saloon mentions were Western and not Southern). I loved that Suzanne had some tricky medical concerns that made her expertise shine. Their careers complimented each other and showed how well they fit together.
Now what I wasn’t so impressed with was that there was a heavy-handedness to Suzanne’s independence streak. Come on…what is the big deal particularly back then about letting a guy help you out of the buggy, open doors for you or walk you home? That’s not demeaning; that’s caring. He totally respected her mind and her skills even if he also felt the need to protect. Letting a guy be a gentleman won’t lose you your Lib card. And seriously for all her smarts, she was dumb too with her insistence that she wasn’t in any danger after she butted in to Zach’s investigation and got on the radar of the bad guys.
The other thing that struck me odd even as I enjoyed it was I found it hard to believe that both a woman of that era and one reared in the home of a Boston gentleman would be that sexually free and aware. I know the authors were trying to convey her strength and independence from just one more facet, but I had to work to find it remotely plausible.
Now, setting that aside…Suzanne and Zach got up to some pretty hot stuff in her room after he saw her home at night. Yowsers! I cracked up when she told him that she had created a calendar of opportunity for their physical encounters so she didn’t accidentally get pregnant and Zach gave her the look that told her what she could do with her calendar before he voiced it in more polite terms. They were just too cute the way they kept denying stuff to his family and to themselves. The whole town knew what the two of them were too pig-headed to see.
So all in all, it was an enjoyable read. I liked the backdrop of the small river town, the closeness of family and life of the area, and I enjoyed the antics of the couple. Those who enjoy their Historical Romance on the lighter, yet spicy side should try this one and the others in the series.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.