Dr. Matt Dennis went to medical school on a scholarship and is obligated to donate three years of service to the State. The class wunderkind, he is on the fast track to become a wealthy and influential surgeon in a Charlottesville hospital. Too bad he shows up the favorite nephew of a powerful doctor on the hospital residency committee. At the last minute, his plum assignment is given to the nephew, and Matt is sent to a small clinic in Iron Springs, a rural Appalachian Virginia town.
Iron Springs is a small town with only one street and everyone knows everyone else – and everyone else's business. The State has paid single mother Liz Rawlins to provide room and board for the clinic doctor. Expecting a female doctor, Liz is surprised when Matt shows up on her doorstep. Being the Lone Divorced Woman carries enough stigma in town already, without housing the gorgeous, single doctor. However, there is no other option for housing, so Matt moves in with Liz and her young son and daughter.
Matt is one angry man. He arrives angry, and he stays that way for the majority of the book. Raised in a series of foster homes in a small town similar to Iron Springs, it reminds him of everything he ever hated about his growing up years. He's quite distant with adults, especially with Liz, but seems to have an affinity with children. He's convinced that the only way to be a good doctor is to remain aloof, and therefore objective. However, he spends all of his free time reading up on the case histories of his patients.
Liz was raised in Iron Springs, but left to go to college. While at college, she married, became the perfect corporate wife, and had her two children. When the marriage fell apart, she came back home to raise her children in a simpler, safer, environment. As the office manager to the clinic, Liz sees how Matt interacts with his patients, as well as how he behaves around her kids, and she knows that there is more to this gruff, angry man than he would like to admit. She's intrigued, though she would prefer not to be.
In addition to the two main characters, the book has a host of secondary characters who add flavor to the story. The clinic receptionist, Salome, has a penchant for clothing two sizes too small and lipsticks in shades never found in nature. She also has a mouth on her, and likes to call Matt "Dr. Beefcake," much to his annoyance. There were plenty of other personalities that gave the book, and the town, its personality.
Just What the Doctor Ordered is Leigh Greenwood's first book for Silhouette, and the first contemporary from an author well known for writing historical romance. As I read the book, I enjoyed the fine writing style. Greenwood has a wonderful way with words, and knows how to bring the characters to life. However, I really had a problem with Matt. The man seemed to have such a chip on his shoulder. I had almost given up on him by the time he got an attitude adjustment. When he came into his own, though... Sigh. What a man.
About the time that Matt had his epiphany and began to reveal all those wonderful redeeming qualities, it was Liz's turn to have a few crises. While she is generally a well-balanced individual, she is not always objective about her feelings toward her ex-husband, and has some esteem issues she must deal with as a result of the failure of her marriage.
I went through a whole series of emotions while reading this book. The cycle went from being generally interested, to generally frustrated with Matt, to loving Matt, but being mad at Liz, then frustrated with both of them, to pleased and satisfied by the end. It took these characters a while to reach Happily Ever After, but it was worth it in the end. Perhaps that was Greenwood's intent all along – to make us care for these two very different people. By the end of the story, he'd succeeded. Had he succeeded a tad bit
sooner, I would have given it four hearts instead of three.