07 May 2014

Fair Play by Deeanne Gist

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Saddled with a man’s name, the captivating Billy Jack Tate makes no apologies for taking on a man’s profession. As a doctor at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, she is one step closer to having her very own medical practice — until Hunter Scott asks her to give it all up to become his wife.

Hunter is one of the elite. A Texas Ranger and World’s Fair guard specifically chosen for his height, physique, character, and skill. Hailed as the toughest man west of any place east, he has no patience for big cities and women who think they belong anywhere but home...

Despite their difference of opinion on the role of women, Hunter and Billy find a growing attraction between them — until Hunter discovers an abandoned baby in the corner of a White City exhibit. He and Billy team up to make sure this foundling isn’t left in the slums of Chicago with only the flea-riddled, garbage-infested streets for a playground. As they fight for the underprivileged children in the Nineteenth Ward, an entire Playground Movement is birthed. But when the Fair comes to an end, one of them will have to give up their dream.

Will Billy exchange her doctor’s shingle for the domesticated role of a southern wife, or will Hunter abandon the wide open spaces of home for a life in the “gray city,” a woman who insists on being the wage earner, and a group of ragamuffins who need more than a playground for breathing space?

Deeanne Gist’s novels first introduced me to, hooked me on, and spurred my (at times embarrassing) addiction to the genre I understand as “inspirational fiction.” For this reason, her novels hold a special place in my heart, even as I have branched out to other authors, and every time I see a new Gist novel, I cannot help but jump to read it. Thus, I eagerly sat down with my copy of Fair Play.

Especially after reading It Happened at the Fair and the related teaser, “Tempest in the White City,” the premise of revisiting the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with new characters thrilled me. Admittedly, I have lived in Chicagoland for most of my life, and still so much of its history has remained unknown to me. So, I greatly appreciate Gist’s well-researched, eye-opening  albeit fictitious  exploration of more life at the fair, as well as of the conditions in the Nineteenth Ward, in Fair Play, showing me the history behind places so familiar in the present. It fascinated me. Imagining a time when playgrounds (which I always took for granted) were not commonplace and instead children grew up in bars continues to astound me. What a different world…

Of course, entwined within this engrossing history, Gist delivers her classic romance. So sweet, so heartwarming. Yet, compared to previous Gist romances, the relationship between Billy and Hunter seems different  flatter, if that makes sense  to me, lacking the expected and anticipated spiritual aspect. This absence disappointed me a bit, but I still managed to thoroughly enjoyed Fair Play and I would recommend it to any lovers of historical romance. I look forward to more books by Deeanne Gist. Thanks to Howard Books and NetGalley, I received a digital copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.   

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