has also reviewed:

The Reforming of Matthew Dunn

The Passion of Patrick MacNeill
by Virginia Kantra
(Silh. Int. Mom. #906, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07906-0
I enjoyed Virginia Kantra's debut book, The Reforming of Matthew Dunn very much and felt that she is at the beginning of a very promising writing career. Her second effort only reinforces my original opinion. Kantra is an author to watch.

What strikes me is the difference between the two books. Dunn was a gritty story about a woman's effort to reclaim a poor neighborhood in an unnamed North Carolina city and the tough-minded cop who questions her do-gooder optimism. MacNeill is a touching tale of a woman who has devoted herself to medicine at the expense of her personal life and a man who must get beyond his wife's tragic death. Yet despite there very different tone and subject matter, both books succeed in creating memorable characters who we can care about.

Dr. Kate Sinclair first saw Patrick MacNeill in the burn unit of Jefferson University Hospital, standing over the crib of his badly burned five month old son. His wife had died in the automobile accident that left his son near death. Kate is impressed by the bereaved father's devotion to his son.

Four years later, having completed her residency in reconstructive surgery, Kate is back at Jefferson as a surgical fellow. When the chief of surgery is out of town, she takes over his appointments, and one of his patients is Jack MacNeill. Now an outgoing and precocious four year old, Jack still has scars from the accident which Dr. Swaim is treating.

Kate is, to her surprise, attracted to Patrick, despite an initially strained encounter. But she cannot imagine that such a handsome man would find her attractive. In high school and college, she was too busy with her studies and too intimidatingly bright to attract male attention. Moreover, her one relationship in medical school had ended badly when the man had discovered her impoverished roots. She has no idea of her undoubted attractiveness.

Patrick has no doubt that Dr. Sinclair is attractive. She is also a darn fine doctor who clearly cares about her patients. Her willingness to go the extra mile in Jack's case permits Patrick to see behind the reserved facade that has kept other men away. Patrick is amazed to find himself attracted to the doctor. He had had no interest in women since his wife's death; he had centered his life on his son's condition. And he is by no means sure that he is ready enter a new relationship, despite the sparks that ignite whenever he and Kate are together.

Kantra's plot is not all that unusual: a woman who believes she is unappealing and a man who is not sure he is ready to love again. What raises The Passion of Patrick MacNeill above the ordinary is the vividness of her characters and the medically related subplot that provides the background to the story.

Kate is a completely believable heroine and completely admirable as well. I know that some might find her attitude less than credible; the idea of an attractive woman reaching her mid-thirties still convinced of her undesirability seems improbable. But Kantra provides us with enough information about Kate's past to explain her feelings.

The subplot centers on Kate's disagreement with the course of treatment for Jack that Patrick believes necessary and which her boss supports. Kate's concern with doing what is best for Jack thus threatens both her new relationship but also her position at the hospital. Kantra's take on hospital politics and her description of the intense nature of work in a burn unit suggest that she has done her homework.

The presence of Patrick's two brothers suggests that there may be sequels in the works. I hope so. Kantra has crafted a fine contemporary romance about two people finding love despite the barriers that might seem to separate them. I hope Kantra continues the saga of the MacNeill clan. The Passion of Patrick MacNeill reinforces my conviction that she has a bright future.

--Jean Mason

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