Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: Fair Play by Deeanne Gist (2014)

Fair Play by Deeanne Gist
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. Billy Jack Tate isn't your ordinary doctor. In fact, "he" is actually a she, named after two her grandfathers. She has fought and clawed her way up in a profession dominated almost solely by men in 1893, so it is a godsend when she is asked to do the doctoring at the Women's Building at the Chicago World's Fair. Her clientele of patients is almost nill so she is desperate for a regular income. What she didn't expect was the pig-headed Columbian guard, Hunter Scott, to start pestering her. On loan to the fair from the Texas Rangers, Hunter Scott is a tough man with traditional views about the role of women in society. He can't let Billy walk home alone at night, and when he finds an abandoned infant at the Women's Building, Hunter starts imagining what life might be like with Billy as his wife and lots of little babies to care for. Except that she refuses to give up doctoring and he refuses to give up rangering and so they are emotionally left at a stalemate until they can reach a viable consensus about their mutual futures. Throw in Hull House, a building dedicated to caring for children while their parents work, and Hunter's passionate desire to build a playground for the waifs of Chicago, readers of Deeanne Gist's latest work are in for an interesting ride with Fair Play.

All right, I loved the 1st book in this series, It Happened at the Fair. I loved the characters and I loved the setting and just everything about it. The book literally happened at the Fair, in the midst of it in almost every chapter. So, I admit to being a bit disappointed that Fair Play had less about the fair than its predecessor. I don't even really think Billy toured the fair at all in the book, although I could be wrong. If it had been me, I would have spent every spare moment wandering through that fair and she just doesn't do that. So, there wasn't enough of the actual fair in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I loved the information about Hull House and the building of the playground, and it's all historical, just the dates are changed to make the events happen at the same time. It was great, just not at the fair.

My biggest complaint, though, is actually with the lead characters. I hate reckless women. I tend to give lower ratings to books where women are so independent that they get themselves into trouble, and Billy is a moron for much of the book, placing herself in unnecessary danger and nearly getting herself raped. I'm sorry but no matter how educated she is, she still goes off half-cocked like a complete nincompoop. At least she realizes this by the end of the book, but I spent a lot of time wanting to smack her upside the head. As for Hunter, I wanted to like him, I really did. I realize that men think about sex more than we women can even imagine, but really? Every time he's in her presence, he's thinking lustful thoughts that he should by trying to stem, not indulge. I mean, come on, admire things jiggling as she's washing her doctoring instruments? Not that anything actually could jiggle in a Victorian corset. So, he was one of those typical males who exhibits sexist tendencies. His mind is focused solely on the physical side of Billy the majority of the time and that got old after awhile. I like men with a little more conscience than he exhibited.

And that's another thing, where was their faith? All right, I don't like books to preach, but this is supposed to be a Christian romance, so where was Christ? I'm sure they must have mentioned faith fleetingly, but it was so fleeting that it disappeared into the ether. I was left with a "clean" read instead of a Christian read and that wasn't what I was expecting. So, with the book not having enough of the Chicago World's Fair in it, and the lead characters not really being to my liking, I sadly have to rate Fair Play a 3 stars. I expected more from Hunter and Billy than they delivered. I'm a huge Deeanne Gist fan so will continue to read her novels with great enthusiasm, but I hope she tries writing a gentler heroine and a nobler hero the next time around.

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