This historical romance takes place in 1909 Alaska somewhere on the Tanana River. A new young Lady Doctor, Amelia Sheldon, is coming to Gold Landing to doctor the fine folks! So this should appeal to my love of women-who-dare-to-be-different, right? Yeah, well that was before William Gunning, mine owner and Real Man, decided to stink up the place with his douchy behavior. See, women are only good for bearing kids and being whores. Women just don't have the stuff for real doctoring. Amelia has a spine in the first half of the novel so she pretty much tears ole William a new one. Good on her, yes? Yes.
But they are powerfully attracted to each other. Amelia likes Williams woodsy scent even though he works in a mine. (I would die a thousand times if a romance heroine liked the smell of Anthracite on a man but I am a huge dork.) William thinks Amelia is so gosh darn purty. Also, William has some buried pain and Amelia is Half a Woman.
Turns out Amelia is pretty good at the doctoring. This is especially great since the other doctor, Ben, she works with is a drunk. Thankfully there is a B plot where Amelia's roommate, Ella as the prudish school marm, reforms him. Amelia births all the babies, saves some miner after amputating his arm, and treats all the people--even the poors and the Natives! The nerve Of that Philadelphia socialite, helping the Natives.
William and Amelia fight and eventually dance at amputee's wedding and kiss on the fourth of July during the fireworks. Magical. However, Amelia has sort of been seeing Abe the Lawyer and he seems to think they are courting. William has been visiting a prostitute named June who thinks William will marry her. (haw, haw. Men only marry virgins in these books, stupid June.)
The story is silly enough but a few facts rip me right away from this book:
- The trees are described as pine (arg not every conifer is a damn Pine.)
- William uses sand paper on some project and I actually stop and look up when sandpaper was invented because I am a pedant.
- The natives all speak in broken English/pidgin, which upsets me because, ugh.
Anyway, Amelia gets lost in a snowstorm and William comes after her and they meet in a cabin and share their Feelings. William was a poor who didn't get anything for Christmas while Amelia had all the things but none of the love. They hug it out over some ham and biscuits.
Amelia nurses William through pneumonia and then they're engaged! But, since Amelia is only Half a Woman (she is barren) she decided that they should be engaged for a whole year because she thinks William, the guy who insulted her to her face upon meeting, deserves better. They do get to have sex, though, because why not? So that happens in a book with a very strong, anachronistic anti-abortion message and the lesson that even Alaska Natives are children of God. Yes. Amelia eventually gets a clinic for treating people but then someone burns it down.
The end is where it goes off the rails for me. June delivers a baby she says is William's because he got drunk one night when he was mad a Amelia for being nice to the Natives and wound up in June's bed. Sooo, the engagement is off because that is some crap behavior from William. Then, Amelia kills a patient by giving him too much digitalis. Eventually, Amelia goes to William to beg for his forgiveness and to take her back. The reason? His mistake created a life and is insignificant compared to hers which took one. So, his was a betrayal of their commitment to each other and hers was a mistake that happened in the course of doing her job. Totally the same. Yes.
Then, yes more, June tries to kill herself because she will never have William but Amelia makes her vomit so she lives. June wants to leave because Amelia is staying. Amelia didn't even leave when June burned her clinic down out of jealousy. Amelia is happy about this because she thought someone who didn't like her treating Natives burned down the clinic. Nope! It was petty jealousy, so much better. Anyway, June wants Amelia and William to take her kid and raise him. Then she reveals it wasn't William's after all. He just got drunk and passed out with June. So he is A Good Man. (sound of my teeth gnashing.) Then Amelia gets pregnant after all because this book was designed to push all of my buttons.
What really gets to me is the notion that child bearing makes a whole woman. I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and I feel nothing like a woman. I feel like a flatulent barge, so magical it is not. It is interesting from a scientific angle but also kind of awful. You may not agree, but eh, nobody argues with a pregnant lady.