Everything She's Ever Wanted

His Brotherís Gift

First-Time Valentine
by Mary J. Forbes
(Silh. Special Ed. # 1881, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24881-4
I did enjoy this book. The only concern was that it was a tad too much pie in the sky for my complete recommendation. First-time Valentine is part of the Wilder family series and I liked it enough to want to find the first installment and keep my eye out for future installments.

Ella Wilder is a new doctor and is determined to put her residency behind her. She has returned to her hometown of Walnut River, Massachusetts and the hospital her father founded. Her older brother is currently the head doctor and he is feeling lots of stress because a large company, NHC, is making noise about a takeover. Walnut River General is an old-fashioned hospital where the patients are spoken to by first names, they stay until they are really recuperated and they even get transition help to their homes. A nurse may give them a ride and make sure they are settled in - it is just part of the service.

J.D. Sumner grew up in Walnut River and left as soon as he could. Raised by a single parent when his mother died in childbirth, J.D. doesnít have fond memories of growing up. His father Jared was always closed to him emotionally. J.D. hasnít even really spoken to him in several years. But he is back because he works for that big conglomerate NHC, who has sent him to try to convince the locals that they just want to help and to scope out the situation. When he trips and falls, causing major damage to his basketball-weakened knee, J.D. becomes a patient. Ella is his surgeon.

The set up is clear. They are attracted, but beyond the ethics (which Ella clearly sees and respects) they are on opposites sides of the fence around their jobs.

While I enjoyed the interplay between Ella and J.D. there was a tad too much sweetener in the story. In this day and age, what hospital, even a small town one, can operate without insurance payments? And what insurance company is going to pay for an extra day or two because the doctor thinks it is the right thing or the patient doesn't have someone at home to care for them? And what hospital can afford to pay for taxis when the patient needs a ride home? No, this was a little too whimsical for my taste.

Beyond that, there was also the issue of J.D., his job and his perception of the NHC Company. He has worked for them for seven years and has seen them take over many hospitals. Yet he is disillusioned when he discovers they want to create havoc so the takeover will be easier, believing NHC just wants to generously provide the Walnut River hospital with some new equipment. His naivete in this area seemed out of character.

Having said all that, Ella is a doll and the fact that she is a thirty-year-old virgin gives her a little more angst than one would expect with a heroine at her age. This part of her character is very believable and makes her very likeable. J.D., despite his internal struggles with his feelings, is blown away by Ella and he is ready for a fall throughout the story. His vulnerability and willingness to acknowledge he is in over his head demonstrates his caring side and endears him to Ella and to the reader.

First-Time Valentine has a lot going for it. You just have to want the fairy tale rather than the reality in order to fully enjoy it.

--Shirley Lyons

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