People who harbor the misconception that category romances are all sweetness and light, fluffy concoctions of cotton candy will realize their error after reading Kathleen Creighton's latest addition to Into the Heartland, The Awakening of Dr. Brown. It packs an emotional wallop as well as its longer contemporary cousins.
Ethan Brown is quite a guy and quite a catch. He's single, good-looking, a really nice guy and a dedicated doctor. Ethan also comes with two full-time bodyguards, courtesy of the Secret Service. His dad is none other than the Prez, the most powerful man on Earth. Ethan has managed to keep a fairly low profile with his work at a free clinic, so the press doesn't hound him too much.
Rock megastar Phoenix, known only to a select few as Joanna Dunn, meets Ethan Brown when he and some neighbors confront her to discuss her responsibility in a local tragedy. An apartment building she didn't even know she owned is in such bad repair that a tenant is killed in a senseless accident. The irony of their meeting is that while he recognizes her, she's clueless to his identity.
Many, many things impress me about The Awakening of Dr. Brown, but the complexity of Ethan and Joanna tops the list. Ethan is shy, diffident and not too comfortable with his dad's position and subsequent prominence. He's not a super stud, but an ordinary man who's coping in a relationship with an extraordinary woman.
Joanna is famous, wealthy, reclusive and a woman whose emotions have been deeply buried. Becoming involved with Ethan seems to her as if she's awakening from a deep, emotional sleep. Joanna is very much an enigma, someone with a surplus of childhood guilt. Hiding behind her Phoenix persona, she feels that ‘Joanna' is unworthy, especially of the love of a man of Ethan's stature. Their journey from strangers to their HEA is
written with intelligence, pathos, joy and intimacy.
Something else that strengthens the story is the depth of its secondary characters. One excellent example is Rupert Dove, a man who befriended Joanna when she was a troubled, hostile teenager. His steadfastness toward her is unquestionable, but he recognizes that Ethan is a kindred spirit, someone who will look past Phoenix's glitter and see the real, frightened and worthy woman inside.
Kathleen Creighton impressed readers several years ago with One Christmas Knight. Its hero, trucker Jimmy Joe Starr, was a shining example of how an ordinary man achieves hero status just by being a man of honor, of integrity, of purpose. Illustrious as Jimmy Joe was, I think Ethan surpasses him. He has to prove to a woman who has felt unworthy for most of her life that she is indeed valuable. He pulls it off with credibility and class.
If you enjoy category romances, then The Awakening of Dr. Brown will only solidify your reasons for reading them. And if you're a Doubting Thomas, then The Awakening of Dr. Brown has the potential to show you what you've been missing.