A Highland Practice by Jo Bartlett

In my “real life” I work in a busy medical practice, and I spend five days a week surrounded by doctors, nurses, receptionists and patients. It can be a very stressful world, and it would be a heck of a lot more enjoyable if a) the surgery was in the beautiful Highland town of Balloch Pass instead of in a city, and b) if we had a fabulous doctor like Alasdair James (no offence to any of our GPs)!

Balloch Pass and Dr James can, instead, be found within the pages of this gorgeous novel by Jo Bartlett, and it’s the fictional Dr Evie Daniels who finds herself working at the Highland practice alongside the delightful Alasdair, when she arrives to work as a locum for a short time, before setting off on her travels around the world.

Evie has had a traumatic time recently. The loss of her beloved mother and the end of an engagement have left her reeling, and all she wants now is to make her mum proud of her by living out the dreams that her mother never got to fulfil. Evie’s mum wanted to travel, and Evie has sworn that she will visit all the places her mother wanted to visit, and see them for her. Her first stop is the Highlands of Scotland – a place, Evie feels, where she will be able to draw breath after the grief and upheaval, and make plans for the next leg of her journey.

What Evie hasn’t banked on is meeting someone like Alasdair, who is clearly a local hero. Beloved by his patients, he is kind, patient, professional and compassionate. They meet in unusual circumstances, when they are both caught in an unexpected emergency, and their rapport is immediately obvious. Evie and Alasdair work well together, and before long, their professional relationship evolves into something deeper – much to the delight of receptionist Susie, nurse Julia, and a whole assortment of locals who can’t wait to see that nice Dr James settle down with someone who truly deserves him.

Unfortunately for the two of them, their timing couldn’t be worse. Evie has made a promise to go off and see the world, whereas Alasdair has made his own promise to stay in Balloch Pass, and there is no way he can or will break that promise – even if it means losing the woman he loves. There seems no room for compromise, and with more than just Evie’s and Alasdair’s hearts at risk, it appears that this fledgling love will never fly.

This is a lovely story, evoking a real sense of place, and made me long to head up to the Highlands of Scotland to discover its beauty for myself. Dr James is a wonderful hero, and I really felt for him as he tried valiantly to be unselfish and to do the right thing for the people he loves. Evie had my sympathy, too, as I totally understood her reasons for wanting to travel. I could feel her desperation as she battled with loyalty to her mother’s memory, and her overwhelming feelings for Alasdair.

With a whole host of well-drawn and enjoyable secondary characters, a fabulous setting, and a love story that burns brightly at its heart – not to mention a catalogue of medical dramas that grip the attention and have you turning the pages rapidly – this is a book that I would recommend to anyone.  Like all Jo Bartlett’s books, it’s a real joy to read. 5/5

You can buy A Highland Practice here.

 

Handle Me With Care by Helen J Rolfe

What a lovely story this is! I started reading it on holiday, intending to spread it out over several days. Instead, I read the whole book in one day, finishing it in the early hours of the morning, as I just couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next.

Maddie lost Riley, her true love, in New York, on the eleventh of September 2001. Her hopes of a happy future were buried in the ruins of the World Trade Center, and ever since that horrific day she has shunned relationships, afraid that she’ll only get hurt again. When she meets Evan – thanks to a rather amusing mix-up involving a naughty cake and a birthday party for an old lady’s one hundredth birthday – Maddie quickly realises that he could be the one to heal her wounds and help her to love again. But Evan has something to tell her, and his news leaves Maddie terrified of losing yet another important person in her life. Dare she risk having her heart broken all over again?
Evan, meanwhile, is dealing with the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to him. With his life turned upside down, he realises that he wants marriage, a family…but has he left it too late? Can these two frightened people take a chance on the future, or has fate played the cruellest trick of all on them both?

This is a really moving story, which tugs at the heartstrings and grips you from the start. Evan and Maddie are great characters and you can’t help but root for them throughout the entire novel. Secondary characters are interesting, too. I really liked Jem, Evan’s mischievous gran, and also his lovely sister and brother-in-law. There is a lot of medical information but this is relayed in a realistic and sympathetic manner and you never feel as if you’re being lectured. The settings are beautifully described and the book is well-written.

I confess I had a tear in my eye more than once while I was reading it, because the emotions that the characters go through are so sensitively and realistically portrayed. There’s no doubt that the issues covered in Handle Me With Care are huge, but, at heart, this is a story of two people learning to overcome their fears and make a giant leap of faith. It’s a story about love, and it’s wonderful. Highly recommended.

Buy Handle Me With Care here:51Idgl8ti5L._AC_UL160_SR100,160_