Quotidian doings at a rural English veterinary practice.
In this second in a series, Shaw (A Country Affair, 2006) details the continuing administrative woes of the Barleybridge Animal Hospital. Newcomer vet Dan is nettling the female personnel. He replaced the much handsomer Scott as a temporary staff doctor and is a dour party-pooper. Joy, the office manager, and Letty, a partner’s wife, are determined not to see Dan’s position made permanent, even though he’s a former equine vet to a sheik. Receptionist Kate, who hopes to attend veterinary college, warms to Dan once she accompanies him on some farm calls and witnesses his stall-side manner. Suspense here is of the “it might happen . . . then it does!” variety. Dan annoys Lord Askew, the local aristocrat, and loses his business by castigating his lordship for delaying a cow’s treatment. But Dan diagnoses the congenital foot defect of a roan belonging to Askew’s spoiled daughter, Mary. Thus, Dan might not only win back the bovine practice, but wrest Askew’s equine practice away from Barleybridge’s competition. And he does! Much of the story unfolds from Dan’s perspective, yet the exact nature of his pivotal breakup with his American inamorata is withheld until the end. His flirtation with Lady Mary is left dangling, as is the growing affinity between him and Kate as they deliver adorable lambs. When Kate’s father dies suddenly, Kate’s mother, Tessa, a solicitor who abandoned her to her father and second wife Mia, resurfaces after 19 years and offers to secure her daughter’s education and financial future. But Tessa’s overweening narcissism prompts Kate to consider renewing their estrangement. The rustic charm is jarred by animal cruelty (cat fanciers, be forewarned), but justice prevails, thanks to the vigilance of the Barleybridge staff. Shaw’s men are either calmly heroic or crustily lovable, and the women either harridans or surrendered wives, morphing on occasion from one extreme to the other in a single visit to the beauty parlor.
A pleasant diversion, especially for animal lovers.