Today I am absolutely delighted to share my thoughts on The New Doctor At Peony Practice, the latest book in the Love Heart Lane series by Christie Barlow. If you haven’t read any of this series yet, you really should. We all know I rarely venture away from my beloved crime fiction, but for this series I happily make an exception. My thanks to publisher One More Chapter for an advance copy via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Love Heart Lane – where friends are there for you no matter what
All’s fair in love and…medicine?
Dr Katie O’Neil has only been in Heartcross a few hours when she finds herself already ruffling feathers – not least with medical school nemesis and new colleague Ben Sanders.
Katie’s the woman Ben loves to hate and until now he’d hoped he’d never set eyes on her again but now she’s back – and living next door!
When a charity boat race down the River Heart puts the two in direct competition, sparks fly. The winner takes it all, but who will it be? And will their prize be far more than they were expecting…
Awww. Well this was another absolute belter from Christie Barlow. It’s one of those irresistible treats heading back to Heartcross and all of the characters who have grown so familiar over the course of the series. These aren’t just heartwarming tales of boy meets girl – they hold so much more. Such a sense of community that also draws you in and welcomes you as a reader. Yes – you will get that familiar boy meets girl angle – although in this case, boy had already met girl, he just didn’t like her that much. And yes, you do find yourself on a familiar course to a happy ending. Isn’t that why we read these books in the first place? But you are also taken on a journey that is packed with heart, emotion and stories which I think many a reader will be able to identify with, especially this time around.
The New Doctor At Peony Practice brings new Heartcross medic Ben Sanders front and centre. Struggling to keep up with the varying ailments of the community a locum is called in, someone Ben just happens to know very well – intimately in fact. His former Med School nemesis, Katie O’Neil. Well … I say nemesis, but in truth she was his biggest competition in the lecture hall and often the biggest pain in his you-know-what. But, in spite of his protestations, from the the very first moment their eyes meet across a crowded and rowdy Grouse and Haggis, you know there is a connection, a real chemistry that can’t be hidden no matter how much Ben sulks and protests to the contrary. The way in which he tries to find fault in every scenario, the way in which katie still manages to gain the advantage without even really trying, just made me chuckle. You could see where it was heading, pushed along by a rather mischievous Clinic Receptionist, Helly, but there are many holes in the road to be struck along the path to true love. Quite literally in one case …
I love the way in which Christie Barlow creates her characters. Even those we don’t know well it takes next to now time to get the measure of and to grow to like. Ben was someone who I felt invested in very quickly, enjoying his sulky moments which create some very chucklesome scenes, but understanding him more as the story progresses and we come to understand the very complicated family situation he is in. It’s not an uncommon one, and entirely believable given some of the headlines of late, but it’s one that gives him a kind of vulnerability that the author has done a brilliant job of balancing, making him sympathetic but not a pity case. As for Katie, she is quite the character. Confident, almost to the point of cockiness, but constantly teasing Ben and keeping him on his toes, just as she did at Uni. There were moments she bordered on the frustrating but again, her story is not as simple as it first appears, and like many other lost souls who find themselves drawn to Heartcross, she is going to go on her very own journey of understanding.
There are some really emotional stories to be told in this book. These are tales which always err towards the tender, but for some of the established characters in the book there is a real sense of change on the horizon, and the central focus of Katie and Ben’s competitive streak comes in the form of a charity boat race, in the aid of dementia. It takes a hard heart not to be moved by the revelations and situations that Christie Barlow brings to the fore in this story, and she has done a brilliant job of highlighting the struggle and the really hard decisions that have to be made by families every single day in the interests of their loved ones. This, and the secret behind Ben’s underlying self doubt, really will get those tear ducts up and operational, so be warned. It might not be a crying buckets kind of moment, not this time, but it is tender, and it is very moving.
Packed with the usual laughs, the brilliant sense of place and the love and spirit that has come to typify the stories in this series, it’s another cracker. It’s a story of family, of understanding, loss and romance, and fans are sure to love it. Definitely recommended.
About the Author
Christie Barlow is the author of thirteen bestselling romantic comedies including the Love Heart Lane series, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and The Cosy Canal Boat Dream. She lives in a ramshackle cottage in a quaint village in the heart of Staffordshire with her four children and two dogs.