Doctor January Paperback – 7 Aug 2014
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About the Author
Rhoda Baxter writes contemporary romantic comedies. As her father's engineering skills were in international demand, Rhoda's childhood was split between the UK, the Pacific island of Yap, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. Rhoda studied at the University of Oxford and holds a DPhil in microbiology. When choosing a pen name, she got nostalgic about the bacteria she used to study, (Rhodobacter species) and named herself Rhoda Baxter after them. Now her day job involves protecting and commercialising Intellectual Property generated by University research. This allows her to stay in touch with cutting edge scientific research without having to spend long hours in the lab. Rhoda is married and has 2 children. They live together in the UK in Yorkshire.
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While on the surface it seems quite traditional (a bad boy who is actually good, a good guy who is definitely bad and a woman who chooses between them), there is a lot more going on. The heroine, Beth, is a wonderful study in what it means to doubt oneself and you can't help but really feel for her plight. Beth's character is written with a light touch, and while some authors may have made her irritatingly naive, Baxter makes her warm and sympathetic, bold in the face of real fear and extremely likeable. Not only that, but the other women in the novel, Lara and Anna, are also extremely likeable and at no point fall into the cliches. They are all three interesting and likeable women, who support each other. This is so refreshing to see!
As for the men.... Hibs! I can see already that he is hugely popular, and rightly so. We could certainly do with a few more men like him in fiction and in real life :-) Vik is also very sweet, and I would adore a spin off following his adventures in the world of mother-led dating (hint! hint!)
This is a funny, sweet story that keeps you turning the pages. It tackles some serious issues with a lightness of touch that doesn't in any way diminish them. And, most importantly (at least for me!) ultimately, Beth saves herself.
Beth's boyfriend Gordon has gone abroad and has not contacted her. She fears that he no longer loves her and she is distraught. As she begins to recover from her devastation she has an inkling that her friendly relationship with her colleague Hibs may just be a little bit more than she thought - but then Gordon comes back and Beth is lost to Hibs and ensnared in a relationship that is increasingly toxic.
The author has a difficult job here. Beth is an intelligent woman (she works as a researcher in a lab) but she is blind to Gordon's nature and doesn't see his behaviour as controlling and abusive - the author needs to help us understand how this can happen and to retain our sympathy for her and she does this admirably. Beth is intelligent but has a low self-esteem and lacks confidence and she becomes a gradual victim to Gordon's self-obsession and desire for power. Her awakening, helped by Hibs' steadfast love is believable and touching.
This novel, however, isn't all dark and meaningful, it is witty and amusing and a very enjoyable read. There are some excellent minor characters and some lovely moments regarding a proposed calendar of hunky scientists (hence the book title) designed to attract more women into the field. It is also good for all the characters to be intelligent and slightly nerdy for a change. A very entertaining read.
Beth and Hibs work together in the university doing Science Things (tbh, I loved all the science in this book, but failed to understand a lot of it. Suffice to say, I realised 'sciencing' is Very Difficult, AND time consuming - this is key to the plot).
Beth is in relationship limbo - Gordon, her ex, went to the U.S leaving things kind of unresolved. Beth has serious self esteem issues, and isn't particularly assertive, so hasn't moved on when we meet her.
Hibs is a serial monogamist. He's cute (and knows it) and sort of catnip for the laydeez. He's not sleazy or disrespectful, though, and treats his ladies well. He's also really into his science, and takes it seriously.
Hibs has fancied Beth forever, Beth is blissfully unaware. But not for long!
There's several plots in this gem of a book; their relationship; Beth's ex (SPOILER: Gordon is emotionally abusive. This is so well written I found myself tensing up and shouting as I read. It may be triggering for some readers.); and the calendar Beth is helping put together to promote Men in Science. How these threads weave in and out of each other results in a romantic, scary, sciencey, funny gem of a book.
Highly recommended, 5 stars.
What's also unusual is the portrayal of emotional abuse and how the victim truly has no idea what's being done to her. It's very easy to see the worst in yourself, to accept criticism and to believe your abuser just wants you to be a bit better, as Beth does here. It takes the hero, Hibs (who is adorable in pretty much every way) to see how badly Beth is being treated and help her to see herself as he does, and to do what she wants instead of what other people think she should.
Can't wait for the next book from Rhoda Baxter!