Fresh out of medical school Dr. Petra Lale is trying to figure out how to keep her solo practice afloat, learning how to market herself to patients, network with peers, and establish professional boundaries with the few patients she does have.
Ian Zamora is a workaholic restaurateur, disillusioned with himself, and trying to salvage the most serious relationship in years by undergoing immunotherapy to overcome his allergy to cats. But when Ian walks into Petra's office he has a hard time remembering why he is putting in the effort since he quickly feels a stronger connection & attraction to Petra than he has ever felt for his girlfriend Danielle. Petra is dismayed and conflicted for feeling attracted to Ian and enjoying his company. When Ian dumps his girlfriend and starts to tentatively pursue Petra, she is startled, confused and scared. Her interest and feelings for Ian make her question her professional judgement and her already shaky confidence. She firmly cuts all connection with Ian in an effort to protect her practice and her heart.
The novel then picks up five months later when Ian and Petra run into each other again and try to figure out if the attraction can ever turn into a relationship given the way they met. Will any relationship be forever tainted by the way they met, can they build something together that will withstand scrutiny.
Both Petra and Ian have complicated feelings about their parents, the way they were raised & the insecurities they developed as children while very different has had a significant impact into the way they behave and interact with the world and is part of why connect so strongly. They both often second guess their feelings and instincts out of fear of repeating their parents' mistakes. Their hesitations, confrontations and misunderstandings felt realistic and believable. They are both ambivalent about their racial and ethnic identities, acutely ware of their otherness within their families and the culture at large, despite becoming outwardly successful adults.
I thought Lang did a great job developing the secondary relationships in the books. Petra's loving but mutually frustrating & maddening conversations with her mother and the restoration and healing of Petra's fraught relationship with her best-friends Sarah and Helen were as significant to the HEA as Ian and Petra choosing to trust each other enough to risk loving each other.
There were a few things that didn't work for me or downright annoyed me. The character of Kevin, one of Petra's few initial patients, never worked for me. Even with a neglectful and distracted father, I had a hard time believing that even Petra would routinely allow a child under-13 to routinely come to her office unsupervised. At 12 he was supposed to be a somewhat annoying, somewhat endearing figure who is able infiltrated both Petra's and Ian's lives, but I just found him all around annoying even before his boundary flouting came back to bite Petra.
I also didn't like Petra struggle with her "Inner Hippocrates" and was happy when that device disappeared for the most part in the second half of the book. I was less than enamored with the way Danielle, Ian's ex was used in the second half of the book. I appreciate how Ian came to regret the way he has underestimated and treated her during their relationship but instead of becoming a more rounded fuller character, she became less sympathetic and more of mustache-twirling villain in the second half, making her undeserving of Ian's regret.
Overall I was happy to have read this book, despite the small annoyances. I give credit to Ms. Lang for being able to take treacherous premise and succeed in building a funny and sweet story. Her protagonists are flawed, their relationships messy but their story was engaging.
I received a review copy of this book from the author, Ruby Lang.