Title: The Doctor’s Orders (Copper Point Medical #3)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: August 20, 2019
Page Count: 384
Reviewed by: Bob-O-Link
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Copper Point Medical: Book Three
Once upon a time Nicolas Beckert was the boy who stole kisses from Jared Kumpel beneath the bleachers, but now Jared’s a pediatrician and Nick is the hospital CEO who won’t glance his way. Everything changes, however, when they’re stranded alone in a hospital elevator. Ten years of cold shoulders melt away in five hours of close contact, and old passions rekindle into hot flames.
Once out of the elevator, Jared has no intention of letting Nick get away. It’s clear he’s desperate for someone to give him space to let go of the reins, and Jared is happy to oblige. But Jared wants Nick as a lover in a full, open relationship, which is a step further than Nick is willing to go. They’ve traded kisses under the bleachers for liaisons in the boardroom… and it looks like the same arguments that drove them apart in high school might do the same thing now.
Jared’s determined not to let that happen this time around. He won’t order Nick from his shell—he’ll listen to what his friend says he needs to feel safe. Maybe this time he can prescribe his lover a happy ever after.
Let me share a secret: often a review is written as the book is being read. This allows contemporaneously noting impressions and reactions. The problem, of course, is when these markedly change during the course of the read. So, let’s try it differently today.
On first impression, here is a shortcoming. The Doctor’s Orders, third book in the Cooper Point Medical series, claims to be a standalone story, but it only becomes so with the passage of a significant amount of words. To this series “virgin,” reading The Doctor’s Orders is akin to entering a room in which a boisterous party is taking place – heavy with dinning noises and conversations about relationships and occurrences, none of which make much sense to the newcomer. With blessed patience, stray facts eventually coalesce, permitting the entrant to connect, until one eventually feels somewhat at home.
A second shortcoming: given our current time in history, the main characters’ views concerning “coming out” seem excessively retro. Jared, though already out, and a full member in an out group of friends, still lives his life with studied reticence, resulting in great loneliness. More disturbing, Nick, despite being a modern, mature and professionally successful adult, determinedly continues life in the closet. He has the same group of out friends and acquaintances – but that provides no solace. He also has a very close family, who are likely to adjust and continue loving him, if he only dares to trust them with his true self. It becomes a stretch for us to fully identify with the angst of either main character.
On the asset side, Jared and Nick make a fascinating sexual couple. They are in their mid-30’s, and renewing their long suppressed teenaged attraction. Novices in their physical relationship, they seem to deviate from the norm as they play games, exchanging who is assertive and who is the more reactive – including a nice variation well-known as “dominating from the bottom!” That, alone, adds a more interesting dynamic to their redeveloping relationship.
Eventually, The Doctor’s Orders hits a high, quality stride. The milieu of the novel’s universe is a small, close-knit town and its regional hospital, both under stress. It permits Ms. Cullinan to bring her considerable skill in depicting many broad truths and issues down to a recognizable size. Thus, we become fully engaged in the story, as she discusses secret gay relationships, homophobia, pubic outing, religious and family prejudices and racial bigotry.
All this is effectively (and entertainingly) interwoven into a heart-warming story that, ultimately, can’t be put down.
Overall, The Doctor’s Orders is a really good read. And to whet (wet?) your appetite, here are a few examples of author Cullinan’s edgy use of heated, Victorian prose:
Ex. 1 (Lilac prose?): “The darkness, the closeness, the rich woods-and cinnamon scent of him, unlaced Jared, sent words tumbling out of the deep recesses of his heart.”
Ex. 2 (Oh, my, purple prose for the erotically voracious among us!): “Push me down and make me take it, Nick.”
And finally, let’s end with a fun fillip – as a salute to all those really good writers, as Ms. Cullinan, to whom we owe thanks for joyful, occasional misuse of syntax: “Jared was only looking fine in a white doctor’s coat . . .” Please, need we immediately call the NAACP?