Saddled with a man’s name, 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 differences of opinion, Hunter and Billie find a growing attraction 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. 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 one breathing space?
Once again, Deeanne Gist has turned to the World’s Columbian Exposition – aka The Chicago World’s Fair – as inspiration for her newest novel. Fair Play uses the event as the place of employment for the main characters, but much of the action happens in one of the seedier parts of Chicago. Despite being in the same city, the Fair and the 19th Ward were worlds apart and Gist describes both excellently. Her words are enhanced by the photographs to be found at the start of each chapter. There are also many social issues covered in this novel from homelessness to the treatment of children suspected of crime. Real turn of the century reformers, such as Jane Addams, interact with delightful fictional characters.
In recent times, Gist has begun writing “edgy inspirational” fiction. The concept, from what I can gather from her website, is to place Christians into the real world and see how they handle real life situations. In other words, Fair Play does not fit into the “bonnet fiction with a come to Jesus moment” category. This is not a sweet and innocent romance novel. Many of the men in the 19th Ward use sex either as a weapon or a commodity that can be bought. There are also strong hints of sexual attraction between Billy and Hunter, and plenty of kissing and talk of the temptation to go further. Hunter does court her and starts thinking about marriage early on in their relationship, but these scenes might not appeal to everyone.
I enjoyed the majority of the book, but had a hard time getting past an early scene in which Hunter must seek medical treatment from a female doctor. I suppose Hunter’s condition was supposed to provide humor, but I’m somewhat of a humor snob. This scene appealed to me as much as an episode of Beavis & Butt-head. I wish Gist had chosen a different ailment that perhaps wasn’t so… indelicate. In sharp contrast, however, I didn’t mind the romantic scenes. Of course, I’ve also been married 14 years. If I didn’t understand human emotions in romantic relationships by now I’d be in trouble. Still, I can understand why some parents might not find this book suitable for their teenage daughters due to these two elements.
Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary copy of Fair Play, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read Fair Play? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: 06 May 2014
Page Count: 464