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Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Roberts

Sydney Harbour Hospital Lilys Scandal and Zoes Baby Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Roberts

I have to say that on the whole I dont associate hospitals with romance, perhaps because generally the time Ive spent in hospitals has been visiting the ill, the infirm and the gratuitously sillythe last largely being that subset of the world that is my husbands family, a group who manage to get themselves into all sorts of bizarre medical situations. My vague memories of my own day-clinic procedures include drooling on myself after having my wisdom teeth removed (after which I had to go and votesorry if my ballot wasnt valid), and passing out from severe dehydration after a terrible bout of food poisoning (NB, dont eat the croissants in Vietnam).

My sister, a nurse, probably hasnt helped with these not-so-romantic associations. Shes told me plenty of gruesome stories involving leaking bodily fluids, dangerous and drug-addled emergency patients, and broken toothbrushes being used for self-harm. (Dear all, please keep your toothbrushes away from your belly buttons.) However, shes also told me that although hospitals are pretty good at the whole containment of disease thing, theyre truly terrible at containing gossip.

Gossip is at the heart of Marion Lennoxs'Lilys Scandal, the first in the Sydney Harbour Hospital continuity series from Mills & Boon. Taking refuge from her man-eating, parasitic mother, agency nurse Lily Ellis has fled from South Australia to Sydney in order to get some space from her mothers scandalous ways and to start anew. (Given the distances involved why shes travelled to Sydney rather than Melbourne is a bit beyond me, but okay.)

But as it turns out, Lilys mother isnt the only one whos good at stirring up scandals. The relative anonymity of the huge hospital and the fact that she sees her role as only something temporary means that shes not as inclined to bite her tongue as usual. This bodes well on the wardLilys a quick-thinking, experienced nursebut less so among the staff. You see, at the end of her first night, Lilys busted pashing Luke Williams, the head of plastics. And vice-versa, of course.

Mindful of both his own reputation as well as newcomer Lilys, widower Luke decides to go into damage control. And does so in the most bizarre manner possible: by telling everyone that Lily is a long-term girlfriend whos just testing the waters in Sydney. Of course, as far as he and Lily are concerned the kiss was a one-off, and theyre entirely platonic, dull, and nothing-to-see-here-maam. Needless to say, awkward shenanigans ensue as Lukes colleagues start doing the maths and wondering whether all is on the level, and when the two are constantly put on the spot regarding the details of their so-called relationship.

I have to admit that Im not a huge fan of the fake-relationship-that-becomes-real trope, particularly the way that its used here: in order to avoid slut-shaming. For that reason I didnt quite connect with the main plot, although I did enjoy the elements around Lukes farm property and his developing relationship with his inscrutable Uncle Tom. There were a couple of key scenes that didnt quite work for me, either: the confrontation involving Lilys mother felt a bit melodramatic, and I felt that she was painted in an almost cruel manner. In all, theres just a bit much going on, and so everything seems a bit over the top. For example,'the subplot involving Lilys inexplicable weight-loss seems unnecessary, and I couldnt help but have a giggle at the lengthy list of esoteric skills Lily apparently boasts.

That said, the tones light-hearted enough, which helps pull back the impact of the melodrama a little, and the witty dialogue keeps things trotting along. I did find the power divide between the male and female characters a bit troublesome: the senior doctors are all men save for Evie Lockhart, who though painted as ambitious and clever, is also diminished somewhat by the frequent references to her wealthy and influential family and the implication that her background is the reason that shes in the position she is. Obviously I dont mean to demean nurses in any way, as they do an incredibly tough job, but I just felt that there was a veneer of traditionalism hereand in the overall plotthat didnt quite work for me.

Zoes Baby,'the second book in this double, mixes this up a little, but again the heropaediatrician Teo Tualaoccupies a sort of protector/teacher role over paramedic Zoe Harper. Still, I did appreciate that this one deals quite thoughtfully and compassionately with the issue of post-natal depression, and thought that author Alison Roberts gave us quite a well-rounded and interesting character in Zoe. The same is true of Leo, and I loved that his family and his family-oriented cultural background played such a strong role in this one.

To get you up to speed (like an ambulance racing to a scene, eh?), paramedic Zoe is a single mother whos recently returned to work. Although shes immensely competent and confident in her professional role, she continues to struggle with her new identity as a mother and with her idea of what a mother should be. Leo, who first meets Zoe at the scene of a car accident, notices that Zoe doesnt seem comfortable with her baby and steps in to help. Interestingly, he does so less in his role as a professional and more in his role as a friend, and rather than telling Zoe what she needs to do in order to cope, brings her along to various family events so that she can see parenting identities/roles modelled.

Teos relatives not only value familyand have a conception of family beyond the typical nuclear onebut also have different conceptualisations about beauty and fitting in, and I really enjoyed the way that Zoes interactions with Teos family have her reflecting on western beauty norms and what it means to be beautiful. Although I dont want to reduce Teo, who is Samoan, by exoticising him, I found it refreshing to see a romance hero who isnt white, as from what Ive read of this genre so far there seems to be a dearth of non-white heroes (and heroines, at that). Id love to be able to see a relationship like my own reflected in the books that I read, but so far, with a handful of exceptions, that hasnt been the case.

Although I did find that'Zoes Baby, like'Lilys Scandal,'stretched on a little too long, with a little too much thrown in, I do wonder whether the fault is less with the authors and more with the format of this particular category. The stories run at just under 200 pages each, making them too long for a streamlined, single-plot novella, and yet too long for a fully fledged novel. Im not familiar enough with the genre to judge whether this is the case, but its something Ill bear in mind for future similar titles. And since Im being picky, I found it a little odd that the two pages, one at the front of the book and one at the back, advertising the other books in this series listed completely different titles, as clearly the naming conventions for this series underwent a change at some point. Oops.

In all this ones a solid read, although'Zoes Baby'was to me the standout of the two. Those who cant get enough of love among the disinfectant and night duty shifts will want to keep an out for the other storiesas far as I know all by Antipodean authorsthat continue the series.

Rating: star Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Robertsstar Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Robertshalfstar Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Robertsblankstar Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Robertsblankstar Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Roberts (not bad)

With thanks to Mills & Boon UK for the review copy

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Other books in this series:

Lucas Bad Girl and the Fireband Who Unlocked His Heart Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Roberts Avas Reawakening and How to Heal a Broken House Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Roberts Bellas Wishlist Doctors Milehigh fling Romance on the ward: Lilys Scandal by Marion Lennox and Zoes Baby by Alison Roberts

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