Howard / May 6, 2014 / $15.99 print & $11.99 digital
Saddled with a man’s name, the captivating Billy Jack Tate makes no apologies for taking on a man’s profession. As a doctor at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, she is one step closer to having her very own medical practice—until Hunter Scott asks her to give it all up to become his wife.
Hunter is one of the elite. A Texas Ranger and World’s Fair guard specifically chosen for his height, physique, character, and skill. Hailed as the toughest man west of any place east, he has no patience for big cities and women who think they belong anywhere but home…
Despite their difference of opinion on the role of women, Hunter and Billy find a growing attraction between them—until Hunter discovers an abandoned baby in the corner of a White City exhibit. He and Billy team up to make sure this foundling isn’t left in the slums of Chicago with only the flea-riddled, garbage-infested streets for a playground. As they fight for the underprivileged children in the Nineteenth Ward, an entire Playground Movement is birthed. But when the Fair comes to an end, one of them will have to give up their dream.
Will Billy exchange her doctor’s shingle for the domesticated role of a southern wife, or will Hunter abandon the wide open spaces of home for a life in the “gray city,” a woman who insists on being the wage earner, and a group of ragamuffins who need more than a playground for breathing space?
I like my romance reading to feature all the colors of the sensuality rainbow. I’ve been known to read a sizzling hot erotic romance only to turn around and make my next read be something gentle and sweet, where the hero’s hands do not stray below the heroine’s shoulders. Inspirational romance scratches two itches for me, neither of which have anything to do with God or religion. First, I like reading a gentler story on occasion and two, inspirational historical romance features some dynamite history. Deeanne Gist has written about heroines who are telephone operators, ladies maids, and now with her new novel, Fair Play, she gives us a woman doctor trying to start her own practice, set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
What I really enjoy about Gist’s work is that there is angst and realism, but she never loses the buoyancy that runs throughout her stories. This is to say that while the characters face obstacles and struggle, they never wallow. They are the sort of people who might wring their hands for a few moments, pray for divine intervention, and maybe shed a few tears, but then they roll up their sleeves and get to work. Dr. Billy Jack Tate, named after her two grandfathers, embodies these ideals to a tee. She’s been asked to speak at the International Convention of Woman’s Progress, held at the Woman’s Building on the fairgrounds, only to have the security guard turn her away from the entrance. Well, no matter, Billy is resourceful and shimmies her way through a cellar window, only to have her undergarments on full display for Texas Ranger, Hunter Scott.
What follows is a great deal of fun and fluff sandwiched between the very hard realities that was Chicago in the late 19th century. Billy graduated from the University of Michigan, near the top of her class, and has worked at several prestigious hospitals. Striking out on her own, however, has not been easy. She fell in love with Chicago at first sight, plus there are plenty of single women and poor families in need of quality health care. Unfortunately even that isn’t quite enough to overcome the fact that Billy is a doctor without a penis.
“No weakness, she reminded herself. Show no weakness. Make him forget you’re a woman.”
That has been Billy’s adult life in a nutshell. She’s a woman who resents the fact that she has to hide the fact that she’s a woman in order to be taken seriously. When in reality her being a woman is the one thing nobody can seem to forget, no matter the practical shirtwaists and eschewing frippery like frilly, feminine hats.
“She was simply a thirty-year-old woman bachelor who’d finally felt as if she had enough experience to step out on her own. To make her own way. To become her own boss. A woman who’d finally accepted what her mother had told her all along. No man would ever marry a hen medic.”
It’s just Billy’s bad luck that the one man she finds herself becoming hopeless attracted to is the very manly, and traditional, Hunter Scott. By modern day sensibilities, Hunter is, no doubt about it, kind of a jerk. Billy being a doctor seems unnatural to him. She’s pretty. It’s not like she’s ugly and has no choice. Why would she go to medical school and play at acting like a man when she could have easily married and birthed a dozen of her own babies. I mean, isn’t that every woman’s ambition in life? In other words, the author has her characters act and think like people more than likely acted and thought in the late 19th century.
“Never did it occur to me that I wouldn’t marry. But as the years progressed, I discovered that no man wanted a wife who played the same role as he did. He wanted a wife who would sit at home and bake the bread and entertain the neighbors and see to his needs.”
“Mr. Scott is no different, I’m sure. He’s strong. He’s capable. And he’s quite virile....He would never sit still for a wage-earing wife. So I must not, under any circumstances, start something that I know has no hope of ever coming to its natural conclusion.”
That’s the crux of the conflict. Billy is Billy and Hunter is Hunter. What they need to figure out is how to compromise, especially when it becomes apparent that their attraction to each other isn’t just a passing fancy. In between they rescue an abandoned infant, create a playground for some of the city’s poorest children, and find themselves as key witnesses on a murder trial. All of this is very serious business, of which the story never loses sight of, but it also doesn’t wallow. This is no mean feat, no simple task, which just goes to show that of course it would take a heroine like Billy Jack Tate to pull it off.
Learn more or order a copy of Fair Play by Deeanne Gist, out May 6, 2014:
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