My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Depending on the Doctor by Margaret Madigan is the second in her western historical romance series, Nevada Bounty. I’ve recently rediscovered my love for western historical and been checking out new authors regularly. This series was a part of that quest. I liked the first book quite a bit because, if you talk about action and adventures, it had plenty. Unfortunately, this new installment wasn’t quite up to my expectation.
Why I said expectation is because Lydia, the h, was the one out of 4 lead women of this series, whose story I was looking forward to the most. Nevada Bounty is based on the stories of Beth, Lydia, Daisy and Nellie. Beth, previously a gambler’s widow, had given other social ‘misfits’ a home because she could connect with them due to her negative reputation. She herself was a gambler when Frank was alive, something that never died down in this small town. Beth is the bold one who’d get into any situation head first, sometimes without even thinking it through. Lydia, the shy and bookish one, always tends to stay within herself. She loves to cook and quite protective of her little family. Daisy is a former prostitute who is trying to mend her ways for a better living. She’s the most flirtatious of the bunch, but that’s only a leftover, harmless trait of her former profession. Nelly is a Native American woman who was raped by a white man, which left a deep scar within her soul. Her only healing balm is her little boy, born after that incident. She seems to be the wisest, though she also tends to keep to herself.
Beth, the h of book 1, Gambling on the Outlaw, is the leader of her little family. She took care of the girls making a living as a midwife and the earnings from her small, but prosperous, ranch. Lydia, though, works as the school-teacher but I’m not sure if Daisy and Nellie do anything to provide for the group. On the course of the story, Beth meets a runaway outlaw named Isaac Collins and they fell in lust headlong, which turned into something akin to love rather quickly. It’s proven again that Beth’s old attraction to bad boys never died down. Not even after the way Frank lost his life after a night of gambling gone wrong. But at the least, he’d bought her this farmland, helped her start her ranch so she’s got some leverage over her situation.
Beth and Isaac had a common enemy throughout the story, who was after Isaac. He was the one who spread the false news regarding a murder which Isaac never committed. That guy was just looking for a convenient scapegoat. Isaac was a victim of evil and rich peeps controlling the top tier of the society. The law was what they made and dish out how they see fit. The same guy, a very rich rancher, was also Beth’s neighbor and had eyes on not only her, but her profitable little land. He wanted both. As the story progress, Beth and Isaac both had to fight their way through to reach a solution but not quite. There were a lot of blood-shed on the path to their HEA.
One good thing, apart from the fact that Beth and Isaac found each-other, was that Beth had stumbled upon a gold mine while on the run from the “law” with Isaac. Apparently at that time, anyone discovering an unowned mine could immediately stake their claim on it. Beth didn’t waste time. The moment she got the chance she had the mind registered, making all 4 of them joint owners. It rather improved their overall situation.
After Beth and Isaac got married, he moved into the ranch. A man was needed for all around lookout, no doubt about that. Lydia did something in book 1 that cast a negative light on her character, which also had shaken her relationship with Beth. But I get it now that she was the one most insecure among the girls and felt the need to protect her “sisters”. Now, even after months, she hasn’t forgiven herself for it, even though it was apparent that Beth and Isaac understood and had already forgiven her.
I’d recommend that you start with book 1 since book 2 rather takes off right after it. Depending on the Doctor was a good enough standalone but reading book 1 may clear some things up and help explain the backstory.
When the story starts, Lydia is still teaching. On her way from the school, she meets a handsome stranger; the type of man who never looks at her twice. Even though Beth is somewhat of a beauty with her blonde hair, Daisy attractive and flirtatious, Lydia has always considered herself the mouse of the lot; too shy, too insecure... too plain. An on-the-shelf spinster without any hope of ever getting married. It didn’t help that her own past wasn’t anything to be proud of or be happy about, abandoned by her own family, then by the man with whom her father arranged a marriage because he deemed her “too plain” to even consider it. She’d just arrived in Palmer and that’s how things ended. Her father refused to take her back, calling her “useless” because she was born a girl. All of it took a big toll on Lydia’s self-esteem, crushed her self-confidence. It was because of Beth’s generosity that today she has a home. Yet the way Emmett Wilder has been looking at her and treating her… well, it’s too good to be true for Lydia. What maybe the reason behind it? Besides, he is new-to-town, what is his business here anyway?
Turns out, Emmett is here to take Lydia back to her brother. The brother who hasn’t even bothered or cared if she was dead or alive these past few years, let alone ever making any contact since her father dumped her. Apparently he knew she was alive, so the moment their mother died and the parish needed help, he had summoned Lydia to do her “duty”. Randall, who has followed their vicar of a father’s footsteps, is cut from the same cloth. He’d always been as presumptuous and rude with the same type of bullying nature as their father possessed. Lydia’s father treated his parishioners way better than he’d ever treated his wife and daughter. It was a complete horror story, the abuse and the neglect. Her mother lost hope, and the wish to live, a long time ago. Lydia had seen the abuse she’d suffered all through her life. She, herself, had been a disappointment simply because of her sex. All these have shaped the person Lydia is today. Someone too fragile and vulnerable; too doubtful of herself and of her own abilities.
Even though, having some idea of her past, Beth, Isaac and the rest of her adopted family urge Lydia to stay behind, Lydia decides she’d travel. It was mainly because she wanted to know what happened to her mother, even though she was never really a mother to Lydia, completely withdrawn from herself and her surroundings to cope with a cruel husband and the daily beatings. Lydia could only wonder how Randall had treated her all these years.
In between, we get glimpses of Emmett’s past. He used to be a doctor and a surgeon in the war, and as with any veteran, it has left a deep, dark scar within him. Moreover, there were some other secrets from which he was running. Randall blackmailing was the main reason why Emmett travelled here to fetch his sister. He knew Randall to be a nasty piece of work, so he had no idea what to expect where Lydia was concerned. Soon in their journey, the more he got to know her the more he learned that Lydia had a beautiful soul. And though the judgmental world has done everything to solidify this notion in her that she’s unappealing, there’s no truth in it. Her beautiful smile and her kindness makes up for any lack she thinks she has in the looks department. He’d also learn that underneath that vulnerability, a strong woman resides, who’s just waiting to emerge with the right support by her side. She’s nothing like the fragile woman Emmett had first thought her to be.
With a promise to return ASAP, Lydia and Emmett ride out towards an unknown future, not knowing how she’d be received by Randall. On the train is where their much unexpected and quite dangerous adventure begins when they’re set upon by train robbers, who then kidnap Emmett after learning he’s a doctor. Lydia wouldn’t leave his side so they take her as well. Things take a drastic turn as they try to escape their captivity and find themselves in a severe snowstorm. Though a sadly inadequate cave shelters them for a while, Emmett was badly injured in the skirmish that took place before they could ride away. Lydia didn’t know if she could keep him, and herself, alive in this raging snowstorm and the deadly cold without adequate provisions, not to mention with his injury. Prayer comes in the form of a band of Native Americans who find them, then take them to their camp.
After more adventures, which led to a very unconventional “Indian marriage”, Lydia and Emmett find themselves to be well and truly bound by love. After all they’ve been through together, that connection had only solidified. Both were already fighting the attraction before the wedding took place. Lydia was, of course, very unsure of Emmett’s feelings, who made every effort with his words and love making to prove what he feels for her. But they still had a long way to go. Even if Lydia wanted to be Emmett’s wife, who was more than glad to her by his side, they still needed to face Randall... and the wrath that was sure to come when he learned of their “heathenish marriage” and Lydia “living in sin” with Emmett. For him, Emmett was more afraid that Lydia wouldn’t wanna be with him if she ever learns of his own past misgivings; things he’d done that he regrets to this day.
As expected, when they reach Randall’s home, Lydia and Emmett get the verbal thrashing from him, all pompous and self-righteous about their heathenish marriage. He even cows Lydia quite a bit into praying for her soul, which she does one whole night. Randall was obviously expecting Lydia to start being the “servant” he’d been missing since his mother’s death, to handle all the parish work without a noise. When she was busy praying for her soul, Emmett drops by to tell Randall that he has no say into anything anymore... but Randall totally deflates all by blackmailing Emmett over a long ago secret, forcing him to bow out with a promise to never to return again. When Randall taunts Lydia into believing that Emmett has finally come to his senses and dumped her too, it kills Lydia inside. I was scared that she’d become her mousy self once again, worse still, the news would shatter her completely. Believing Randall knowing what an a$$hole he is would’ve been quite the folly. But I was so wrong!
Lydia wasn’t one of your feisty heroines, who went into everything head first, mentally strong and very courageous. She was SO shy and so unsure of herself that at times it was hard to believe that she can be anything else. However she surprised me by showing her quiet strength over and over again. So when Randall thought he’d at last broken her down to do his bidding, she refuses up front for the first time. She also asks him about their mother, which confirmed that he may have killed her through regular beating. Really, how much can an old woman, who has suffered all her life, take at that age? Lydia confronts him by telling Randall exactly what he is; an a$$, a murderous one at that. Quite taken by surprise and faced with the accusation, Randall finally snaps and starts beating Lydia too........... thankfully, the housekeeper sees it all and finds Emmett immediately. I wasn’t angry at Emmett because, though he had said he’d leave town, he was already reconsidering his decision about leaving Lydia all alone in the mercy of that PoS.
The next chapter sort of jumps some months and whatever happened to Randall and the aftermath was forgotten, leaving me quite speechless. It wasn’t even mentioned again, and bam, they’re back to Palmer?? Umm... I don’t know, but it caught me totally by surprise. The ending, though it brings the much sought after HEA for Emmett and Lydia, wasn’t at all satisfactory. It felt rushed, as if chunk of the story was cut off from it.
Apart from this, the following bugged me too:
1. The first person POV. I’m not saying I dislike first person POV but the first book wasn’t written that way, so it was quite unexpected. It sort of smacked dab on my face, and took me a long time to get used to with.
2. Too contemporary-sounding dialogue. At times you couldn’t tell you were reading a book set in the post Civil-war era. The word “sexy” was used once in the story, from Lydia’s POV (if I’m not wrong) which just sounded so wrong. I’m sure the author has done her research well, but whatever I found online told me sexy wasn’t a word that was used before early 20th c. Though the dates vary in different sites (I did consult Merriam-Webster online edition, which says 1912), it certainly wasn’t 1872, the year this story is set! Even if I’m wrong, I’d never associate “sexy” as a word coming from someone living in that era to emphasize the attractiveness of another person.
3. What happened to that gold mine? It was never mentioned here once! I was curious as to what was going on and how the girls were managing it etc., but there was no answer to that.
In the end, TBH I enjoyed Lydia’s story but I still think it could’ve been much better. I’m still very eager know Daisy and Nelly’s fate. Three of Isaac’s brothers were introduced here, which also left me intrigued. Really loved their banters, so wondering if any of them would either be paired with Daisy or Nelly, or would they have their own stories to tell.