All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Baby Doctor by Fiona McArthur

on October 3, 2017

The Baby Doctor
Fiona McArthur
Penguin Michael Joseph
2017, 331p
Copy courtesy Penguin Random House Australia

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

‘The right people turn up in your life at the right time if you let them.’

Sienna Wilson is living her dream in the city – a rewarding obstetrics job in a leading hospital, an apartment with a view, and handsome Sergeant McCabe on call whenever she needs him. The last thing she wants is a posting to investigate a medical mystery in a remote outback town.

But on arrival in Spinifex, Sienna is brought to life in new and exciting ways. In a community riddled with secrets, she meets troubled young barmaid Maddy, and tough publican Alma, both with their secrets to hide.

As they draw strength from each other, new friendships, new loves and new babies are born, proving that when strong women join forces, they can overcome even the greatest odds.

A couple of years ago I read Red Sand Sunrise from Fiona McArthur and absolutely loved it so when I received this one in the mail I was very excited to see that it featured some familiar faces, namely obstetrician Sienna, who gets her own story here. Now working in Sydney, Sienna is summoned to the remote Queensland outback town of Spinifex by formidable local matriarch Blanche McKenna who wants Sienna to investigate an unusual occurrence in the area where three babies were born with the same birth defect. Location and timing are their only common factors and Blanche wants this investigated and fixed so that it doesn’t keep happening. She has the money to ensure that Sienna’s hospital employer are happy to see her go and it will of course bring Sienna closer to her sometime lover, Sergeant Douglas McCabe, who is the Spinifex local officer.

Sienna is the quintessential city girl with her designer clothes, high heels, harbourside apartment and reliance on technology and excellent coffee. She’s also a career girl who has worked hard to get where she is and has visions for her future and her department. The fact that she is granted a bit of bargaining power with her boss thanks to Blanche’s donation is one reason why Sienna is okay with heading north – and Sergeant McCabe might be another. Also I think the idea of a medical mystery (and the chance to perhaps solve one) intrigues Sienna and taps into her professional ambitions.

When Sienna arrives in Spinifex she has ideas of staying with Douglas that he quickly vetoes, saying it’s not a good look for his reputation and standing in the town. Instead accommodation has been arranged for Sienna at the local pub where she meets tough publican Alma, who enjoys a flutter on the ponies and hides a painful secret loss from her past, as well as worker Maddy. Sienna’s keen eye notices something about Maddy almost straight away and she hopes that when she employs the young woman to help her with data that Maddy might open up to her about her troubled situation.

Despite her lack of desire to be in a small town, Sienna does seem to settle in there quite well and scores herself an office with internet and an assistant in record time so that she can begin her research and her investigation. It’s a very unusual birth defect to occur three times so close together in such an area and Sienna has only some vague ideas she needs to see if she can hammer into possible genuine hypothesis. I found the mystery and Sienna’s research into it really interesting. It definitely went in directions that I did not expect, which was great.

I also really liked the character of Maddy, a shy young woman who is experiencing some shame at her situation and isolation. There are people there for her, Maddy just needs to be brave enough to ask for and accept the help that they would offer. She retreats into herself but her planning and preparation has to be commended. Maddy is very smart and I would seriously love to see her pop up again in a book in the future so that we can see how she is doing. Her journey was very important and tackles a situation that’s really a very unfortunately common scenario in Australia at the moment and Maddy could’ve easily become a more gruesome statistic. Maddy contributed a real balance to Sienna’s quite brash personality and Alma, the tough publican was another older woman who shines, which seems a common theme in Fiona McArthur’s books.

I did find it a bit funny that Douglas was so adamant about Sienna not staying there and about them not really showcasing that they were, if not in a relationship, then ‘intimately acquainted’. It felt a little bit outdated but this was a very small town – honestly I’m not sure if it was tiny town morals or Douglas himself. He and Sienna were very different but they did work together. I liked their interactions in the previous novel and it had developed nicely in the time between that book and this one. It was also great to catch up with Eve, Sienna’s sister again, as well as her mother-in-law, Blanche McKay. Made me want to read Red Sand Sunrise all over again.

Another really enjoyable rural romance from a very strong author who always creates a great story. I love the intricacy to this one, there’s so much more than what meets the eye and Fiona McArthur’s own background in midwifery really does give such a solid believability to the ins and outs of the plot as well as a focusing on issues in rural medicine, which I find really interesting and I don’t come across a lot. As soon as I finish one book, I’m always looking forward to the next one.


Book #163 of 2017

The Baby Doctor is book #49 in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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