Book Review Series: Doing No Harm
Guest Post by Kalliope. Kalliope is a former college instructor in both written and oral communications courses. She earned an MA in Linguistics from BYU and recently began a PhD program at University of London. She has two naughty kitties that fill her days with glares and snuggles. You can read another post by her here.
Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly is a historical fiction following the exploits and adventures of a recently retired Royal Navy surgeon desperately seeking fewer exploits and adventures. The surgeon, Mr. Douglas Bowden, gets unexpectedly drawn into the needs of Edgar, a small Scottish village by the sea. He befriends many residents, and most especially on Miss Olive Grant, proprietor of a tearoom and overall saintly, spunky spinster.
This book dealt with some themes I did not expect, but greatly appreciated. I admit that I was expecting a fairly standard historical romance: boy and girl meet… boy and girl hate each other… but it was all a misunderstanding… so now boy and girl love each other. But that wasn’t this book at all. Both Douglas and Olive gave themselves in service to their neighbors and it is through that path that they find each other – while they are caring for the destitute refugees from the Scottish highlands driven from their lands and dumped on the shores of Edgar by crass, capitalistic landlords. This was unexpected, but appealing to me. I really liked how the main characters worked with each other to cajole the townspeople into taking better care of each other. This, to me, was far more the focus of this novel than the romance was – the idea that working together and sharing together and giving freely makes everyone wealthier, in more than in just money.
I always like a spunky lead female, but she’s more than the embittered spinster trope so often seen – she’s incredibly good-hearted and has risked, and continues to risk, her own livelihood to care for those around her. Quite luckily, a nice doctor comes along to share and ease that burden. I also really liked that the emphasis of the novel was more on collaborative service than on a cookie-cutter romance. It’s there, but it’s not the main event. The whole town is the main event! Douglas doesn’t just fall for the girl. He doesn’t just save the girl. He works with the residents, the refugees, and his own friends to save the whole village.
If you like a historical drama or romance, or you’re intrigued by characters brought together by selflessness instead of hormones, I’d say give it a go. For me, it was a really nice change of pace from standard romances. Douglas and Olive team up to heal Edgar’s wounds, literal and metaphorical, and in so doing they find an unexpected partner.
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