Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fair Play (It Happened at the Fair #2) by Deeanne Gist

Saddled with a man’s name, the captivating Billy Jack Tate makes no apologies for pursuing a man’s profession. As a lady doctor at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, she is one step closer to having her very own medical practice--until she doctors an imposing man who threatens the fulfillment of her dream.

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 aspire to walk in a man's shoes.

But the abandoned baby Hunter discovers at the Fair finds him teaming up with the good doctor to give the foundling a better future than the slums of Chicago, where the children play on flea-infested, garbage-strewn streets. AS Billy and Hunter fight for the foundling's welfare, their hearts warm to the precious child--and to each other. Soon their concern grows to encompass the Nineteenth Ward's burgeoning population of street children. In the interest of fair play, Billy and Hunter let nothing stand in their way as they labor to build a park for them, birthing Chicago's first playground and a national movement that will sweep the nation.

But the Fair is coming to an end, posing impossible decisions for Billy and the man who has won her heart. Will they become a footnote in the Fair's history books, or will what they discovered in Chicago be longer lasting than the World's Exhibition.

Type: Historical Fiction
Heat: 1.5 out of 5
Rating: 4-4.5 out of 5

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I glad I gave Fair Play a chance. Historical fiction isn't one of my normal genres but let me tell you. Gist about did me in with an incredible story of hope, heartbreak and love set during the final days of the 1893 Chicago World Fair as a lady doctor and a Texas Ranger are drawn together by an abandoned infant that sets their lives on a new course they never would have expected.

The quick of it is that Billy and Hunter have both found themselves at the World Fair. Billy--the heroine--as one of the doctors and Hunter as one of the guards. Time and time again they find themselves pulled together and after finding an abandoned child they venture into Chicago to a home that will take him only to encounter poverty, abuse, the slums and all they bring with them which sparks a need for them to do...something to change the lives of the children living there.

I really enjoyed both Billy and Hunter. Both are so incredibly honorable and always trying to do what's right. They're good people and easy to get to know and are just likable. They have a great back and forth even if they get exasperated with one another and don't see eye to eye on certain a woman's role...Billy is fiercely independent. She's a medical doctor, supports herself and refuses to rely on men for anything--sometimes to her detriment. And Hunter, well, he thinks women should be cherished, protected and pretty much worshiped and can't see why they'd want to or need to be anywhere but in the home where they're safe. It was fun seeing them both dealing with their attraction and knowing how differently they felt on the issue and both eventually compromising. They've got great chemistry for sure but things are kept very clean with just a kiss here or there and one very closed door scene towards the end. So heat lovers will miss out on this one.
He looked at Billy. "Did you have us walk the last leg on purpose knowing all the while that if we'd stayed on the cable car it would turn on Halstead and bring us right to the front door of Hull House?"

She tightened her mouth. "How was I supposed to know it was going to turn on Halstead? Are you trying to pick a fight?"



"Because this are is full of dissipation and refuse and disease," he said. "And, like it or not, you're a female and he's a babe. The cable car provides protection and the both of you should stay on it for as long as possible."

Tightening her hold on the infant, she stepped into the street and wove between traffic. "Ah, but we have with us a big Texas Ranger and his ominous-looking gun."

He narrowed his eyes. "Are you baiting me?"



"Because, like it or not, you're an overbearing male who thinks I'm made out of porcelain." Reaching the boardwalk on the other side, she squared up t him. "Well, I'm not made of porcelain or crystal or any other fragile material."
The historical elements. Lordy. They were hard. This one isn't a prettied up historical romance but a historical fiction mixed with romance. So many of the elements of the story were based on true facts. On actual events that happened, people that existed, cases that were documented. And they weren't all pretty things. My heart absolutely hurt from some of the things that Billy and Hunter witnessed as their lives were drawn into Chicago and it's issues. Poverty, slums, child abuse, addictions and sexual assaults. Injustices in the court system and the filth of the jails. The further I got into this one--and it's a big one being trade paperback size and over 400 pages--the more it had me feeling raw and, not battered, but just achy for everyone and what life was like. But at the same time there were so many amazing things included. Invention and advances in technology, fights for women's rights and an underlying hope to it all. One very neat aspect was at the start of many of the chapters photos were included of actual people or locations being talked about in the chapter. It really brought home how real everything was and was so interesting.

All in all, Fair Play was a phenomenal story that infused a wonderful romance and fascinating historical elements that just left me feeling emotionally ragged...but in a good way. I loved the light romance happening and seeing these two bond and become friends as new life experiences were thrown their way. My only complaint was that I wish more had been done with the World Fair. It provided a nice backdrop but I would have loved to see them actually exploring the Fair more. But...I'd not hesitate to read Gist again. It was an amazing read and one that'll definitely be sticking with me for quite some time.

Have you read Gist?
Do you like historical fiction? Have a favorite?

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