THE IDEAL MAN – Julie Garwood
St. Louis, Missouri; Winston Falls, South Carolina – Present Day
Dr. Eleanor Sullivan has just finished emergency surgery at St. Vincent’s and is desperately looking forward to a jog in the nearby park. Finally her surgical fellowship will be over in just a few days and she can consider where she wants to work next—or stay at St. Vincent’s. For some reason she can’t make up her mind, and now she has her sister Ava’s pre-wedding party to endure before she can clear her mind. When Ellie brought her then fiancé John home to meet the family, the next day she found Ava and John in bed together. Now Ava wants Ellie to be in her wedding so that nobody will believe the gossip about why Ellie’s engagement ended. Really, the main reason Ellie doesn’t want to return home is Evan Patterson, the boy who started stalking her when she was eleven years old, and after several attacks, by the age of twelve, he had kidnapped her and almost beat her to death. His family’s money kept him out of prison and in psychiatric facilities after every attack and arrest, but six months ago he left the latest place and hasn’t been heard from since. Ellie knows he is still looking to kill her. And then to complicate things, as she’s jogging in the park she hears three gunshots and then a man and woman walk past her. Several seconds later, men with FBI shirts start running after them, the man turns and shoots an agent, and the couple runs away. After stabilizing the agent, with his final breath before falling unconscious, he asks Ellie to operate on him. The agent’s partner, Max Daniels, questions her on the way to the hospital, but because of the odd clothing and wigs on the couple, there is no way she could identify them. But how are these two arms dealers supposed to know Ellie can’t identify them? Now she has three people wanting to kill her.
Max Daniels has been on the trail of Cal and Erika Landry for months to try to stop their selling of illegal firearms. They almost had them captured in Missouri until Cal turned around and shot Agent Goodman. At first he thought Ellie was one of the soccer players at the park, but soon finds out she’s a trauma surgeon, and Agent Goodman wants only her to operate on him. But things, of course, escalate, and the pair think Ellie might be a witness and able to identify them. After an attempt is made to kill Agent Goodman in the hospital, Ellie must be taken somewhere for safety. Max decides he is the only one capable of guarding her, since she has to go back home for her sister Ava’s party. Spending time with Ellie after he finds out about her stalker from long ago has Max increasingly protective and attracted to Ellie. Between seeing Ava trying to ignore the fact she didn’t steal Ellie’s fiancé, and trying to keep Ellie safe from being found by killers hired by the Landrys, Max has his hands full, especially at night with Ellie in his arms.
Once again Julie Garwood takes us on a magical journey with the fluency and flow of her writing. We are quickly brought into Ellie’s life; her job is moving on, but emotionally she’s really still waiting for Evan Patterson to finish the job of killing her; she just knows she and her family will never be rid of him. Max also had a difficult youth; his parents were killed in a traffic accident, and after his second foster home, he ran away at the age of seven rather than endure any more. Fortunately eight-year-old Simon Daniels found him hiding and took him home, and he finally found a family to love him. Told from each of their points of view, Max is quiet and in charge, not quite sure a woman would fit in his life with his dangerous work. Ellie knows she doesn’t want to get married and risk anyone else with Evan Patterson still on the loose; besides, no one could fit in with her crazy surgery schedule.
Each supporting character is a gem in Ms. Garwood’s hands. Evan Patterson is a vicious ghost; no one knows where he is, but he’s sure to be back to finish the job on Ellie. Ellie’s sister Ava cares for nothing but herself, her wedding, and her reputation in the town. Every bad thing in her life is because of Ellie. Ava’s twin sister is Annie, sweet Annie, who found her life’s work as a lawyer after seeing how Evan Patterson avoided prosecution over and over again, even after Ellie almost died from one of his attacks. Ellie’s parents and Max’s other FBI agents round out the story to perfection.
THE IDEAL MAN is, indeed, the ideal story if you enjoy action, suspense, and great medical action, along with a doctor we all would like to have. From beginning to end, Julie Garwood has hit all the high spots and claimed each character and situation as her own. I can guarantee you won’t go wrong with this story and, yes, you will be thanking me for recommending it. You’re welcome.