Hong-Wei has secrets—more than one, but the most pressing is that he feels he has failed his parents. When he realizes that he can no longer deal with the pressure of the demands that are being placed on him due to his gift as a wildly sought after surgeon, he takes a position at the small hospital of St. Ann’s in the tiny town of Copper Point in Wisconsin. What Hong-Wei doesn’t count on is the surgical nurse being so very appealing, a strict no dating staff policy, and the complication of falling in love.
Simon deliberately moved back home to be a nurse with his two best friends, Jared and Owen. They are the three gay musketeers who have each other’s backs no matter what. While none of them like the no dating policy at work, they take it in stride, hoping that eventually St. Ann’s will become more stable and hire the much needed staff they currently lack. When Simon is asked to pick up the new surgeon everyone is thrilled is coming on board, he dutifully goes to the airport with his silly homemade welcome sign and waits. From first sight, Simon is tongue tied—the new guy is gorgeous. As he gets to know Hong-Wei, Simon realizes he is smitten, but he is terrified to act on his feelings lest he lose his job. But Hong-Wei is like a dream guy come true and Simon’s resolve not to date the man quickly crumbles. Maybe hiding the fact that they are dating will somehow work out after all.
Heidi Cullinan’s new novel, The Doctor’s Secret, marks the beginning of a new series as well. Set in a small town, the author not only unpacks a host of interesting and dynamic side characters, but gives us a wealth of information on both the town where Simon grew up and the country from which Hong-Wei immigrated at the age of ten. In many ways, the story was well-rounded, giving us a realistic setting with a plethora of people who played a role in keeping the hospital afloat. With the arrival of Hong-Wei, a gifted surgeon who could have had his pick of jobs at more prestigious medical centers, the uneasy truce the hospital staff has had with the new head of HR and the strict no dating policy moves into the limelight. Hong-Wei intended to keep his head down and simply do his job—until he met Simon and then all bets were off. There was an instant attraction between these two polar opposites who found their common ground in their mutual love for their work.
Simon was a completely open book and an appealing character to me. His open and honest way of divulging his fears about potentially losing his job made him vulnerable and approachable. Hong-Wei was a bit more aloof until he suddenly wasn’t and this is where the story left me feeling a bit unsettled. The connection between Simon and Hong-Wei seemed to do a 360, going from a mere touch and an occasional stolen kiss to passionate declarations of love. This, coupled with an ending that didn’t feel realistic to me with the way the whole non-dating rule was finally addressed, made this story turn from a sweet and interesting romance to a slightly unsatisfying series beginning. Still, I readily admit that I look forward to both Owen and Jared’s eventual stories and I hope we get them because as secondary characters go, these two were really fun and interesting.
In the end, The Doctor’s Secret had some really wonderful moments and a strong supporting cast that made the small glitches in the narrative seem less important overall. I really enjoyed Simon and despite the feeling that his and Hong-Wei’s relationship moved way too fast for it to be fully believable, I liked the two of them together. I am eager to see who stars in the next installment of this series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.