Davie Penrose has come to the city in order to start fresh and expand his career as a nurse. Working with children in need of life-saving transplants seems daunting, but Davie is determined to give it his best. That means keeping his head down and not getting distracted—particularly when it comes to workplace romances. Having been burned before, Davie is on his guard, but he isn’t ready for Doctor Leo Westbury’s charismatic ways. Leo is career driven—not so much that he can’t make time for his friends, but he’s certainly not looking for any long-term romance. Having the occasional fling with a temporary nursing staff member is the extent of Leo’s romantic dalliances, particularly since his one and only relationship ended tragically. Now Leo guards his heart with an iron fist and lets no one in. Despite Leo and Davie’s best efforts, the two men can’t seem to evade the attraction growing between them. Can two men determined to keep their distance really just be friends or are they fooling themselves as they try to avoid falling in love?
Unlocking the Doctor’s Heart by Liam Livings had great potential. Davie Penrose was wonderfully gentle hearted and the scenes he shared with the children in his care were sweet and well written. Livings seemed to have both first-hand experience and done hefty research into the life of being a caregiver on a children’s ward where each patient was hoping for the miracle of a transplant in order to survive. In fact, the portions of the novel where Davie and Leo interacted with each other and the patients were some of the very best the story had to offer. These instances spoke volumes about Davie and Leo’s characters and made them so accessible. They pushed me to care about the men even when other intervening scenes that seemed to drag on and repeat themselves overshadowed these finer moments.
The repetitive scenes I’m referring to are part of the reason this novel didn’t ever fully capture my interest and keep it. Those were the mental gymnastics that played out over and over in both Davie and Leo’s head whenever they felt themselves getting too close. Davie was determined not to fall for Leo because he had been badly burned by a doctor in his previous position and understood that his weakness seemed to be falling for the man he spent the most time with on the ward—hardly a reason to think oneself in love. These thoughts were often chased right after by Leo’s similarly repetitious remembrances that he had tragically lost the love of his life and he would never open himself up to such pain by giving his heart to another man again. While I understood that this internal war for both Davie and Leo may have been meant to result in a slow burning romance, the author seemed intent on dangling these themes again and again until I really just wanted to shake both men and tell them to snap out of it and get on with it.
However, the real reason this fell apart for me and didn’t have the impact I think Livings was going for was the fact that these two men never really developed any kind of relationship until nearly the very end of the novel and then it was so sudden it seemed completely unbelievable. One second things seemed to be falling apart and the next there is a profession of undying love. These guys made an Olympic sport out of running hot and cold and tossing one another aside, then getting back together against their better judgment, and then splitting up again. It was really confusing and aggravating to read.
Unlocking the Doctor’s Heart had all the right elements to become a wonderful love story of healing and second chances. Unfortunately, there was just too much time spent chasing away the very love both men craved for them to ever really establish a relationship that was believable.