Rating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

When a freak elevator accident traps Nicolas Beckert and Jared Kumpel together, little do they know that it will be the fuel to reignite an attraction that never really disappeared, despite the many years that have intervened in their lives. But not much has changed for Nick—he still overthinks most things, lives in fear of being outed as gay, and is in love with his once best friend, Jared. Perhaps this time, Nick is ready to take a stand—at least that is what Jared is hoping for as he is ready to give up everything just to be able to love the man who he has never really let go.

Heidi Cullinan gives us the third novel in her Copper Point Medical series, The Doctor’s Orders. Focusing on the third and last unattached doctor from the trio of medical professionals who once shared a house together, this time it’s Jared Kumpel, hospital pediatrician, who is in the spotlight. Jared has had a love/hate relationship with Nick for many years, ever since he gave him an ultimatum back in high school to either acknowledge their relationship or walk away. Nick walked then and, to this day, he regrets it. But many fears, including his family turning on him and tossing him aside, keep Nick chained to his very deep closet. Five hours in a faulty elevator changes all that and for the first time in a long time, Nick begins to understand how he has lived only a half life and one that didn’t take into account his own happiness, but everyone else’s first.

I liked this third novel immensely. First, because it focused on the very real concerns of a man who had not only a legacy from his deceased father to live up to, but also because coming out meant he might lose the only community and family he had. Homophobia has been a staple of this series, but now Cullinan couples it with an underlying tendency toward racism and had her poor main character, Nick, living through it all. It was difficult to watch Nick grapple with his terror of coming out and losing the support of his mother and Gran, but to also see many in the town, including Jared’s own estranged parents, view him not only through the lens of despising gays as an abomination, but disliking Nick because he was black, as well. It made this a most timely and important story. In one fell swoop, this novel placed two hot button issues at the forefront and showed us first hand the dangers of both and how they affect the lives of those living under their veil.

Jared was pretty much a saint when it came to supporting Nick and his decision to keep their renewed relationship a secret. As tough as it was for Jared to not publicly acknowledged his love for Nick, he still understood what Nick stood to lose. While there weren’t any great revelations that may have been new about the hospital or the town of Copper Point, there was a very different feel to this installment—one that had a much bigger impact, in my opinion, than its predecessors. There didn’t seem to be a page wasted in this book; all of it built to the climactic moment when Nick had to decide if coming out was really worth it, and I felt one of the best novels thus far.

The Doctor’s Orders may signal the end of this series and that makes me a bit sad as I have enjoyed getting to know this team of men who fought single handedly to save this small town hospital. Perhaps the author has another novel up her sleeve, but until that happens, I am sure many who love this series will enjoy this third book.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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