Narrator: Iggy Toma
Length: 9 hours, 49 minutes
Hong-Wei has always wanted to be a good son. He studied hard and got good grades, and he was obedient to his parents and loving to his sister. And, even though he wanted to study music, Hong-Wei became a doctor like his father. Unfortunately, the competition, the stress, and the pressure that always weighed on him was just too much, so he has now taken a job in Copper Point, Wisconsin as their emergency surgeon. The town is small and quiet, and so is the hospital, St Anne’s. And quiet is what he wants.
Simon has always lived in Copper Point — except for a brief stint to college — and he’s always wanted to be a nurse. He loves his work; he loves helping people and seeing them go from needing him to leaving him. He has friends he loves, parents who support him, and his Kdramas for when he needs a dose of romance in his life. Imagine Simon’s surprise when the new surgeon he’s been sent to the airport to pick up is the handsome and charming Dr. Wu. Hong-Wei could have stepped straight out of the television, but fortunately for Simon, Hong-Wei is very real, and even more fortunately, he’s also very interested.
St. Anne’s has a strict no-dating policy for its staff and if it’s found out that Hong-Wei is dating his surgical nurse, Simon could lose his job. Even though Simon’s friends and family are all on board with the two of them falling in love, they are also aware that no one else can know (though it’s hard keeping a secret in a small town, and even harder in a small hospital). Simon and Hong-Wei have to hide everything — their stolen glances, the gentle brush of fingers, even Hong-Wei brushing against Simon in the surgery. Even a conversation at the community church could rouse suspicion. But when a careless look catches the hospital board’s attention, Simon and Hong-Wei are told, in no uncertain terms, the hospital forbids employees dating. Either Hong-Wei does what he’s told or Simon goes. Hong-Wei isn’t one to back down from a fight, and he’s certainly not going to let go of Simon now that he has him. The hospital doesn’t know what an angry Hong-Wei is capable of, and Copper Point and St. Anne’s are never going to be the same.
Hong-Wei is a brilliant surgeon, a skilled musician, charming, charismatic, and always in control of any given situation. He’s never come out to his parents, but he’s never exactly hidden who he is from them. Not that he’s spoken to them in some time, not since moving to Copper Point. It’s not just that he’s been busy — with the hospital, with Simon, with new friends and a new life — but he’s afraid that by his inability to be the brilliant surgeon in the best hospital, he’s let them down. He’s happy, though, at St Anne’s. He’s able to spend more time with his patients, he’s made friends, and he’s even managed to rediscover his love for music, as well as find his love in Simon.
Simon is enthusiastic and energetic and is delighted by almost all things Asian. He loves Kdramas (Korean television shows mostly focusing on drama and romance), as well as Jdramas and even some Chinese shows. He also loves Asian food and Kpop, and while he doesn’t always know what the words mean, it doesn’t stop him from learning the dances or being able to sing along. Hong-Wei, with is intimate and expansive knowledge of Taiwanese cuisine and Asian culture, is Simon’s dream come to life.
Hong-Wei is definitely the instigator in this relationship. It takes Simon’s two best friends barely minutes before they know Simon is going to fall head over heels in love with the surgeon, and they make efforts to meet Hong-Wei themselves to get a feel for the man. It doesn’t take long, though, for them to give Hong-Wei their approval. And that’s part of my problem with this story. Simon is presented as so in love with anything and everything Asian that it seems taken for granted by his friends, and even by his own mother and several of the nurses in the hospital, that Simon will fall in love with Hong-Wei. Not might. Will. And it’s seems taken for granted that Hong-Wei will fall in love with Simon.
This story feels like wish fulfillment for Simon. He loves Kdramas, so here is a doctor who looks almost like Simon’s favorite actor. Hong-Wei knows everything about Asian music and Asian food (and launches into a rather lengthy bit of exposition on Chinese-American food workers and green cards that felt more like a lecture than a conversation), though the music makes sense as Hong-Wei went to school to study and practice music. My biggest problem with Hong-Wei is that he doesn’t feel like his own person as much as the person Simon wants him to be, and it left me feeling very ambivalent about the relationship.
There’s also a section in the book where Hong-Wei is both flirting with and trying to seduce Simon who, in tears, asks him to stop. Hong-Wei doesn’t stop; instead, he pushes. Simon actually asks him not to continue, and Hong-Wei tells him that he (Hong-Wei) shouldn’t be the only one to suffer. I think it’s supposed to be romantic, but when Hong-Wei then doesn’t let Simon leave the room and continues his efforts, it just didn’t work for me. To be clear, Simon and Hong-Wei are both emotionally invested in one another and I do not think Hong-Wei was attempting to force Simon into something he honestly didn’t want, but the way it came across to me felt a bit problematic.
Overall, this isn’t a bad story. The pacing is uneven, with exposition dumps on food, music, and hospital policies that break the rhythm of the story, and the side characters feel like they exist only to be cheerleaders for Simon. For me personally, it’s just that everything feels so convenient and perfect for Simon that the story feels unbalanced. I will be very curious to see where the next two books take us.
I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Iggy Toma. Toma isn’t great at different voices and almost all of the characters blurred into one another. There were times I couldn’t tell side characters apart, but Toma always managed to make Hong-Wei stand out, giving him a rich dignity that helped during some of the lengthier lectures on Asian music, food, and other tidbits the author dropped in. Simon came across as breathless and stereotypically light and innocent, which made some of his “Oh, gosh” moments almost amusing. That’s where Toma stands out as a narrator. While he may not be able to do so many voices, he did do personalities and managed to capture both Hong-Wei and Simon perfectly. Unfortunately, even his charming Hong-Wei couldn’t save me from feeling the nearly 10 hours.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.