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The Doctor's Wife (Harlequin…
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The Doctor's Wife (Harlequin Historical, No. 481) (original 2002; edition 1999)

by Cheryl St. John

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523330,053 (4.23)1
Member:chantyfun
Title:The Doctor's Wife (Harlequin Historical, No. 481)
Authors:Cheryl St. John
Info:Harlequin (1999), Paperback, 296 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John (2002)

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Ellie Parrish has a lot of reasons to keep her past to herself. She's fighting to live - for herself, and for her younger brothers, who were separated from her a year before the book opens. She wants nothing more than to rescue them from their horrible situation as indentured servants and provide a warm, loving, secure home for them.

Her luck changes one afternoon when she returns to Newton after visiting them, when she is confronted by a lecherous man at the train station and falls from the platform, breaking her arm. She is taken to the office of the new, young doctor in town - Caleb Chaney, son and scion of a nearby ranching family. He, too, is trying to forge his own way in life, by practicing the healing arts in his hometown. Few people trust him, though, preferring to visit the drunken old doc across town.

Caleb sets Ellie's arm, and when he learns of her distress about losing her job as a waitress, he hires her as a nursemaid for his infant son. They take to each other right away, and as time goes by, Caleb begins to wonder if marriage wouldn't be the best solution for both of them: he would have a mother for her beloved baby boy, and she would have the security of his home and his name.

She makes two requests before accepting his proposal: (1) that they take her brothers away from their horrid situation, and (2) that theirs is a marriage in name only. She refuses to contemplate the idea of having children of her own, though she doesn't share the reasons why. Caleb is accepting enough to agree to her word, and when they bring her brothers back, he begins to understand that their family life has been hardscrabble, at best.

Her brothers slowly but surely adjust to this life of comparative luxury. Ben, the eldest has been hardened by his experiences, but Flynn, the youngest, is exuberant at the idea of a fresh start. All is going fairly swimmingly until an outbreak of scarlet fever in a neighboring family. Caleb has to stand up for himself and modern medicine in a big way to prevent the outbreak from spreading, and from killing or crippling anyone. He manages to get the old sawbones on his side, but not before almost everyone he comes into contact with - including his infant son, young Flynn, and Ellie herself - succumb to the illness.

His actions in preventing an outbreak are enough for the town at large to accept him and his new ways of medicine, but the further his star rises, the harder it becomes for Ellie to keep her secrets at bay. Then a dark force from her past comes back and pushes her to the brink, and she has to face her fears or risk losing everything she's worked so hard for - her brothers' security, the love of a good, honorable, decent man and his extended family.

This book is very sweet, but it certainly explores the darker aspects of life in the Midwest in the 1880s. Ellie has a lot of growing and learning to do, some of which she finds very difficult. Caleb is absolutely wonderful - kind, gentle, patient, empathetic. He doesn't push her or judge her, but supports her as she makes her way through the tangle of her past. She holds onto her guilt for longer than I personally liked (the man has shown you time and time again that he is a genuinely decent person, even in a time of crisis, so how about trusting just a little bit??), but the scenes where they discuss her past and their future are heartfelt and wonderful. He is completely swoon-worthy, IMO.

There is no unnecessary drama or petty, catty characterization. The people of Newton are good and decent, which makes the villain's behavior stand out like a sore thumb. This is a very low-angst story, but character-driven and paced beautifully. I found it hard to put down. Sweet without being saccharine, heartfelt without being cheesy - just a nice, quiet love story between two characters who need love more than they are willing to admit.

Benjamin is the hero of another of Ms. St. John's books (The Preacher's Daughter), which I will now add to my list of to-reads. I am certainly curious to see what kind of person he grows up to be! ( )
  eurohackie | Jan 2, 2019 |
Very compelling, but ended abruptly, hence 4 stars out of 5 ( )
  fbswss | Nov 17, 2014 |
Somehow every St. John book I have ever read makes me cry and this one was no exception. This book is an American historical set in Kansas in 1885. Ellie Parrish is very damaged from events in her past and I really liked her. She is desperately trying to earn enough money to provide a stable home for her and her brothers and is barely scraping by. She is brought to the town doctor's office after falling and breaking her arm. The good Dr. Caleb Chaney is a recent widower with a small baby. He takes in Ellie to care for his infant son after realizing she is destitute with no place to stay since she can't work with her injured arm. Eventually they marry but Ellie holds back the secrets of her past and cannot consummate their marriage, but Caleb is a true beta hero and is almost unbelievably patient with her. Usually I dislike secrets and feelings of worthlessness by the heroine, but St. John makes her story believable without being overly melodramatic. St. John's prose is spare but she knows how to tell a good story. Being the slut I am, I really would have liked more and hotter sex scenes (the one scene was only subtle). But overall I gave the book extra credit for making me cry (I love that :) (Grade: B) ( )
  reneebooks | Sep 7, 2009 |
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A shimmering silver moon spied upon the girl's halting, labored progress as she crept upon the stand of midnight-cloaked cottonwoods, their long-fingered branches snagging her threadbare dress and scratching her bare arms.
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Dr. Chaney could see that Ellie was a woman with a troubled soul. But, he could also see she had a heart big enough to love his infant son as though she were his mother.

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