Set against the backdrop of New Orleans society and its medical community, The Surgeon’s Wife is the story of two physicians: one an aging aristocrat and surgeon, Clayton Otherson, who begins to injure patients as his skills and mental abilities decline; the other younger partner Mike Boudreaux, who is placed in the bad position of having to point out these errors and discipline his own mentor.
One doesn’t expect romance to further complicate a professional relationship already standing on shaky ground; but when Mike falls in love with Clayton’s young, beautiful wife, the trouble between them threatens to spill over into the personal and professional lives of everyone involved.
It’s difficult to imagine that a short novella could capture so many facets: New Orleans culture and society, the dilemmas faced by a compassionate younger doctor and his increasingly impaired mentor, and the underlying desire for love that creates ethical and moral conflicts; but The Surgeon’s Wife deftly weaves these disparate threads of interest into a story line that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
Readers with a special affection for romances which spring from unusual circumstances will relish the attention to detail exploring how a colleague’s wife becomes tempting: “She climbed up the stage stairs gracefully, with the controlled steps of an athlete, and walked to the podium. For the first time ever, he found her striking. She knew her worth as a woman. He’d not been around her enough over the years, when her role had been always as a hostess or as Clayton’s devoted companion, to see it before. But here, on this stage, presenting to this group of arrogant cynics, her confidence was obvious and appealing.”
William H. Coles takes the time to explore and develop this process, and this care shows well in a production that moves beyond professional boundaries and how they are overstepped into the lives of two compassionate individuals who find in each other an unexpected connection.
As events give rise to some unexpected scenarios, readers are in for a treat because what is anticipated to be a set course of love evolves into something quite different.
While the story’s unexpected conclusion would seem to belay the evolutionary direction of the rest of the novella, the result is a satisfying turn of events that will keep readers guessing right up to the end in a story recommended for romance readers who want the added attraction of professional and ethical conundrums added to the mix.