Fair Play by Deeanne Gist
From the bestselling author of It Happened at the Fair comes a historical love story about a lady doctor and a Texas Ranger who meet at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Saddled with a man’s name, 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 differences of opinion, Hunter and Billie find a growing attraction 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. 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 one breathing space?
I expected to like this book more than I did. This novel elaborates on the story between Dr. Billy Jack Tate and Columbian Guard Hunter Scott, who we first met in the novella Tempest in the White City. I really enjoyed the novella and was thrilled to discover we were getting a whole novel about Billy and Hunter. Unfortunately, it seems their story would have been better off left short and sweet.
Most of the reason I wasn’t a fan of this book is because I really didn’t connect with the characters at all. Both of them seemed very juvenile, especially for being in their 30s. They were both rather arrogant and prideful in the extreme and for some reason not only thought their respective sex was superior to the other, but thought themselves superior to most people, or so it seemed. That might be okay if they seemed to change in the end, but I didn’t see much of a change in their characters after all they went through. They did compromise a bit, however circumstances kind of didn’t give them much choice in that regard. Everything wrapped up rather too conveniently too, in my opinion.
The story was interesting for the most part, however I did have to force myself through several slow parts. I thought some of the events, while interesting, were rather random. I felt like the author just threw things together because she wanted a particular scene or line in a particular place, but the sequence of events or the thought process of the characters didn’t always seem logical or realistic. I enjoyed most of the historical information in the novel, although some of it seemed rather forced into the storyline unnaturally just for shock value. I was disappointed to read the historical note at the back of the book and find how much (almost all) information the author had altered or rearranged for her own purposes. It made it all seem rather pointless.
Finally, the “sexual content” in this book made me uncomfortable. I use quotes because there isn’t actually any real sexual content to speak of. There are just some make out sessions and one fade to black scene. Usually I would have no problem with that. However, the way that it was written and the way the characters thought about and talked about sex was what was uncomfortable and annoying. I don’t know how to explain why, because it wasn’t explicit, there was just a certain ick factor about it. It just seemed that obscure sexual thoughts or comments would be peppered in randomly. They didn’t flow with the narrative at all and were jarring. There was also way WAY too much fixation on Billy’s underwear. Paragraphs going on and on about it throughout the whole book. The same pair! And they were pantalets for crying out loud! They came down to her knees. It made me feel like the main characters were about 13 years old. It became quite ridiculous and annoying. I also had a really hard time believing characters would be talking and acting the way these two did, especially in public, in the 1890s. This book seemed like it was trying to push the limits of “clean” romance, and dance around the edges of bodice ripper territory and the result was just awkward and uncomfortable.
*I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.