Lacy Williams is my go-to author for when I simply want a sweet, gentle read that won't send me into a diabetic coma. Return of the Cowboy Doctor continues her Wyoming Legacy series and features Maxwell White, who I fell in love with when he was a little boy in a previous book, The Homesteader's Sweetheart. Maxwell is now all grown up, and oh my! He's grown up fine.
Maxwell White still has two years left before completing medical school, but he finds himself coming home due to a lack of funds. His plan is to make some money helping his brother Oscar on his ranch and pulling some extra hours with the local doctor. He's hoping that working alongside with Dr. Powell will be a valuable learning experience. What he didn't plan on? Becoming powerfully attracted to the doctor's daughter, Hattie.
Hattie Powell has the misfortune of being born a female. Against her mother's wishes, she has been helping her father with his practice for the last several years. She's a very competent nurse, but what she really wants is to go to medical school. It's a dream she desperately wants, and she's even close to securing a scholarship (only an interview remains). The problem is that she's been unable to convince her parents. She's hoping that by being efficient, competent and invaluable to her father, that he will somehow open his eyes and realize that Hattie going to school is an obvious next step. Except now Maxwell White is in town, and she's worried this medical student may distract her father when she desperately needs his focus firmly placed on her. Adding further complications? Having successfully thwarted her mother's attempts at matchmaking, Hattie finds herself hopelessly distracted and attracted to the quiet, shy cowboy.
While Williams writes for the inspirational Love Inspired Historical line, her books tend to be very subtle when it comes to the religious elements. Honestly, half the time I think the only reason Harlequin has placed her in this line (as opposed to Harlequin Historical) is that she keeps her books sex-free. Obviously this is a western, so the church plays an important role in this story - mostly as a community gathering place, but also as shelter during a time of crisis for the small town. But other than that? Readers can rest assured that the author won't be trying to convert them.
Maxwell is a textbook example of a Beta hero. He's shy, quiet, and reticent. Also, despite his adoptive mother's best efforts, he still awkward around women. He's not suave or debonair. More often then not he has a tendency to open his mouth and insert his foot. He's attracted to Hattie, charmed by her drive and intelligence. But when it comes to opening his mouth and talking to her? He's has no idea what he's doing.
In turn it's not hard for Hattie to notice handsome, unsure Maxwell. Especially when all her single girlfriends start manufacturing various "ailments" to spend time in his company. What charms her the most? Besides the fact that he really seems clueless about all of that - is that Maxwell really sees her. I mean, really sees her. He immediately questions why she hasn't applied to medical school. He hits on her secret dream immediately when her own parents haven't opened their eyes to that fact.
The crux of the conflict is that this is a historical story and Hattie is a woman who wants it all. She's desperate to go to medical school, even though she knows it will not be an easy road to travel. But then she gets distracted by Maxwell. She falls for him. Hattie wants it all, but given the era we're dealing with? She doesn't think she can have it all. It's either marry the man and squirt out babies or go to medical school and become a spinster. Or is it? How the author resolves this conflict is ultimately what makes the story. Hattie wins, and as the reader - we all win right along with her. And shy, hesitant Maxwell? Well, he finally figures out that to get the girl - you need to find the right girl first.
Final Grade = B