Title: Bad Case of Loving You
Author: Laney Cairo
Genre: Medical romance, contemporary
URL: Torquere Press
Price: US $5.95
Other Information/warnings: detailed medical procedures, drug use, explicit m/m, fisting, D/s
Matthew is a medical student, trying to ignore his various roommates’ wild parties and get through his classes. Andrew is his instructor, a doctor at a prestigious British hospital. They’re not supposed to be attracted to each other, but they can’t deny their undeniable chemistry.
They come together with a heat that surprises them both, and through doctor’s strikes, dealing with Andrew’s teenaged son, and hospital red tape, Andrew and Matthew learn to live, and love together. Is their relationship just what the doctor ordered?
Having enjoyed, with some reservations, this author’s One Way Street, I gave into temptation and bought another two works by her, including this one. And then consumed Bad Case of Loving You in an hour, going to bed with a grin of delight at having discovered something so intensely satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable.
One Way Street is good. Bad Case of Loving You is genius. The sex and kink which doesn’t quite slot in as well as I’d like in a story in the former, is integral and wonderfully used in the latter. There’s a lot of sex in Bad Case of Loving You, all of it hot, some of it far from vanilla, but it all works (and trust me, if I say sex works in a story, you know it does because I’m not a fan of the pron for the sake of it.) Here sex is a necessary part of Andrew and Matthew’s lives (and a lot of other people in the story) – it’s an affirmation of life in the face of so much despair, illness and death, it’s stress relief, it’s a way of having some kind of caring intimacy in hectic overworked careers, and in this particular relationship, it also acts to equalise the power imbalance.
A teacher screwing his student might sound distasteful, but here, it’s not, because Matthew is the one in charge, and Andrew all too happy to let someone do that for him in bed because he literally holds the power of life and death in his hands in his job. There were things in the sex which in real life would turn me right off, but in this story were a complete turn on (and I learned more than I ever wanted to know about certain kinds of penile piercings.) I kinda skimmed the sex in One Way Street – not here. The sex is essential to the story and the people.
The setting, the plot, are wonderful. As a long-time addict of medical dramas (for the medical side, not the soap opera) I could see easily this as an episode of Casualty (think ER without the shouting, budget or big name stars), if the Beeb were a little less uptight. The author knows her stuff. The NHS is her field of expertise and here she presents it in all its misguided, overworked, underfunded shabby glory – the politics, the compromises, the dedication, the frustrations and the tragedies. It’s not glamourised, and neither are Andrew or Matthew, the one midway in his career, having seen it all, and the other, eager, enthusiastic, wanting to help but only just beginning to see how sordid and sad his new job can be, especially when there’s too much demand and too little time, money and staff to cover it. Yet neither are jaded and if there’s a reason the NHS lumbers on despite numerous attempts to kill it off, it’s the people who work for it. They keep it alive, performing CPR and bringing it back over and over from the brink of death. This piece is a tribute to their spirit.
That spirit is embodied for the purposes of the story not just in our main couple but in a host of minor and wonderfully drawn characters. Ms Cairo doesn’t have much of a gift for distinctive accented dialogue (Andrew’s American but apart from people commenting on that, you can’t tell from his dialogue or his thoughts) but she’s brilliant at populating her stories with people you care about and remember. Matthew’s housemates, fellow students, Andrew’s colleagues, his son (okay, not the son – the son’s an annoying little shit), even his ex-wife, all live and breathe and even when they’re rather gawky and unattractive like Nevins, the sympathetic, unjudgemental portrayal lets you make your own mind up about them.
But Andrew and Matthew are the jewels in the characterisation crown. Andrew is humane, gifted, his desire to heal unblunted by all he’s seen and done, his passionate devotion to fairness and equality inspiring the next generation. He was once like them, and he knows it. He cares, while knowing how to protect himself from being overinvolved. He’s kind, generous, a gentle man, a gentleman, and rather sad after the end of his marriage.
Matthew on the other hand is brash, out, loud and proud. A confident top, fully in command in sex, knowing what he wants, and how to get it. He takes charge of Andrew, who takes care of him. It’s a truly mutualistic relationship where each is independent but is so much more when with the other. Matthew will be a great doctor one day – his wit, brains, humanity and bravery will take him to the top, you know it. And Andrew will be there to guide and support and teach.
It would be remiss of me not to mention how cleverly the medical details are used (and misused) here. I suspect any doctor or nurse reading this would be sitting there nodding and giggling to themselves. Medical supplies as sex aids, doctors using medical knowledge to give massages, or to know why being fisted works, dramatic scenes where their skill is employed in an emergency, drugs being stolen and abused recreationally – Cairo weaves it all in and out of her story incredibly naturally and to great effect. The story reminds me of the black humour and cleverness in The Clinic and should she choose to revisit the NHS setting for another novella, I’d be the first in the queue for it.
This novella with the terrible title is fast-paced, funny, touching, sexy and involving. It works at all levels – romance, political commentary, modern drama. A tour de force I can’t recommend highly enough (another TGFT book, in fact.) Do yourself a favour and grab it for the entirely reasonable price of US$5.95.