Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Fair Play by Deeanne Gist

Book Cover and Synopsis:
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? 

My source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
Stories involving the pioneering women of the medical field are always a fun ride, and this one is no exception, except that it's actually much better than most! Billy's detailed knowledge about the body and anatomy is, of course, viewed as strange and somewhat improper for the time period, but this creates some rather fun situations. She is very matter-of-fact about medical issues--even sensitive ones--and Hunter often takes advantage of this by making cheeky double-meaning comments that "normal" women would scoff at.

Billy and Hunter are both likeable and well-written characters. The point-of-view rotates back and forth between them, and both are equally enjoyable. I liked how they got to know each other, and then various events--such as finding an abandoned baby at the fair--brought them even closer together. Their ventures into the slums of Chicago were heart-wrenching yet fascinating, and it was encouraging to see how they weren't afraid to lend a helping hand, despite the appalling conditions. When the issue of "building a playground" initially came up, I expected things to get somewhat cheesy, HOWEVER, that was certainly not the case. The ways things progressed was very fascinating, and ultimately it ended up being more about the people and children that it would benefit, rather than about the playground itself.

The only thing I can find to nitpick at is the wedding night scene towards the end of the book. Though the chapter ended early enough and nothing was shown, the lead up just felt a bit too drawn out for my taste. Overall it just seemed awkward, there's no other way I can describe it. Despite the fact that it wasn't inappropriate, I just would've preferred if the chapter had cut off a bit earlier.

Fair Play is the author's second book involving the 1893 World's Fair, however, unlike the prior book (It Happened At The Fair), the fair itself actually doesn't take center stage in this story. Instead, the fair provides temporary jobs and living arrangements--sort of a homebase--for the main characters, while much of their time is actually spent in other parts of Chicago. Now, for those who are wondering: reading the previous book is certainly not required to enjoy this one, and in fact the stories are barely linked at all. They are both stand-alone novels, but they do compliment each other extremely well.

Overall, I really enjoyed Fair Play, and it's certainly a title that would I recommend. I liked seeing how Hunter initially regarded Billy with distrust, but eventually came to trust her medical skills completely, even defending her to those who would slander female doctors. Though some issues didn't wrap up as I imagined they would, I was ultimately happy with the outcome. My recommendation is to pick this one's a winner!!

My Rating: 5 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Howard Books) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

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