Dr. Rhys Gray and Miss Margaret Babcock are friends—strictly friends. But over the course of the year, as they exchange dozens of letters, they share personal details that put them on the path to something more. When Dr. Gray helps Margaret realize her dearest dream and she comes to his defense in the uproar that follows, it seems that their connection cannot be denied. But will their relationship stand the scruples of society and jealous intendeds, or are they destined to be only friends, and nothing more?
The perfect novel for fans of Regency Era romance, The Dare and the Doctor is a clever and passionate love story worth sharing.
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The Dare and the Doctor
To Dr. Gray—
Thank you very much for the pamphlet you sent on the scrub bushes of the African wilds. I am spurred to adjust my experiments to see if any of our Lincolnshire plants could be pressed to grow their roots that long out of thirst. It must be quite solitary to be a shrubbery in the desert. Have you been to Africa and witnessed them for yourself?
I am afraid not much has shifted in my world since your visit ended a few weeks ago. My father’s gout is much better. Leticia—now Mrs. Turner—has settled into the mill house, and Mrs. Turner—or Helen, as I have been told to call her—is such a frequent guest at Bluestone Manor that Father has given her a room of her very own, for when she plays cribbage with him far too late.
Reading that back, I suppose a great deal has changed. Although it does not feel as if it has. It feels as if things are as they ever were, or ever were meant to be.
Oh, I nearly forgot! Something amazing has happened—the roses have gone to a third full flower this season! Lovely to have fresh blooms so late in the year. I think I have perfected the manure-to-lime ratio in my fertilizing formula.
Miss Margaret Babcock
To Miss Babcock—
I hate to disappoint you, but I have not been to Africa. The farthest south I have been is the middle of France, and as it was the middle of the war, I was happy to go no further. The pamphlet comes from another academic correspondent of mine who has been to Africa and wrote it to present to the Horticultural Society of London. I attended the lecture and thought you might find it interesting as well.
It is good to hear about your father’s gout—it was a particularly troublesome case and gave me a devil of a time—and that Leticia and Mr. Turner have settled in. John has long been a friend of mine and he deserves his happiness. But I understand what you mean about how while everything has changed, it feels as though nothing has. It is like when you theorize the outcome of an experiment, and you are proven correct. Such as when my brother comes to visit, I can easily theorize he will ask me for money. And I will be proven correct. Something has changed, but the result is exactly as you knew it would be. So really, everything is the same.
That is excellent to hear about the third flowering. The Horticultural Society of London has managed to shift the color of some blooms by what minerals they put into the soil. I wonder if you could do that with your roses.
Dr. Rhys Gray
Dear Dr. Gray—
I feel at times my inquiries are so numerous it is easier to address them in the form of a list.
1. I am not disappointed you have not been to Africa. Rather, I find myself relieved you came back from the war.
2. “Another” academic correspondent? Does that mean I am an academic correspondent too?
3. I was not aware you had a brother.
4. The flowers that you mention that changed color based on their soil could not, I think, have been roses. They sound like hydrangeas. Depending on what food is in the soil, they can be pink or blue or white or some mixture of the above. I have never successfully changed the color of roses.
In other news, I have taken initiative and begun the construction of a new greenhouse! This one an arid environment, as opposed to a damp one. (Yes, I was inspired by the African pamphlet.) I thought to ask Father about it, but then was advised by Leticia and Helen that, as my father tends to question expenditures, I should simply order the construction and tell him about it after.
He has yet to notice.
Miss Margaret Babcock
Dear Miss Margaret—
A list should be answered in kind.
1. Thank you most heartily. I too am glad I came back from war. It relieved me of my desire to travel, and I find myself happier and more at home in my laboratory than anywhere else.
2. Of course we are academic correspondents. You know more about plants than anyone else I know, and I like to know people who like to know things.
3. I have a brother. I actually have three. And three sisters. I’m the second of seven. But the brother in question is Daniel, and I am his elder by almost a decade. For some reason, he thinks that means I am a stodgy bore. I, in turn, think he is heedless and troublesome, but I am assured by my mother and general resemblance that we are indeed related.
Also, I have to admit to a little familial affection. A very little.
4. Yes, hydrangeas! I had completely forgotten the name. To my uneducated eye, they looked fluffy. I equate fluffy with roses. I’m sorry to hear rose color is not as mutable, but if anyone can do it, I imagine it would be you.
Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Turner both give excellent advice. I presume that your father will notice when you have African tumbleweeds growing on the east lawn?
Happy Christmas! Thank you for the gift you sent with your last letter—where on earth did you find an African shrub in England?
Your gift is this stray bit of gossip from Leticia that she and John might be coming to London for a few days in the New Year to sign some papers with the bank—John has the opportunity to buy another mill to add to his growing empire. I know how you hate surprises, so should he turn up in your lab in Greenwich mid-January with a furrowed brow and an intention to disrupt your work, you’ll be prepared.
Did I tell you that Miss Goodhue finally succeeded in talking me into going to the public ball in Claxby? She caught me in a sentimental mood, and she begged me to come along, saying that having a friend there would make her so much more comfortable.
So I went, and had a . . . not overly bad time. I danced with four separate gentlemen.
I was taller than all of them.
Is there a remedy for extremes in height? Slouching? Any shrinking formulas that you men of medicine have been devising?
Until such a time, I think it best if I continue spending my winter trying to graft roses. I make my own fun.
Here is the leading prescription for dealing with issues of height:
—wear the tallest shoes you can find
—reach things on the top shelves for those poor souls who are not blessed with length
In other news, John wrote me himself and said he and Leticia would be down here in a few weeks. We’ll see if he actually tears himself away from his mills to make the journey. He spent so long in London, I wonder that he would ever want to come back. Although it does have its charms—in Greenwich I’m just far enough away to make me wistful for it, which is easily remedied with a few days’ visit.
Although if you were ever to venture south, I would make certain to become wistful for London over the exact dates you would be there. What powers would it take to remove you from your beloved greenhouse?
I admit, as winter has settled over the land, the quiet and the cold make me enjoy the coziness of my laboratory more and more. Holidays and their attendant obligations have passed. This is the time for work, for lectures and letters to write. People even seem to have left off injuring themselves or contracting rare illnesses, thus I have been given the freedom to putter. I too make my own fun.
You might be one of the only people of my acquaintance who knows what I mean.
It’s spring! It’s spring, it’s spring, it’s spring! Things have finally begun to bloom again, and my happiness abounds. Of course, I keep all that inside. It wouldn’t do for anyone to see me smiling—it would no doubt cause paroxysms of shock. But thank goodness the spring has finally come and my work can begin in earnest again.
In your last letter (or was it the one before?—I swear you are so prolific in your communication that I’m receiving two a week now. Not that I’m complaining) you mentioned that your most recent lecture at the maritime hospital was on the benefit of binding a wound in a braided pattern—and I admit, I tried it on the stem of a juniper bush that had sustained injury from overenthusiastic pruning. But the branch in question remained quite healthy! Perhaps next time you can extend your lectures to flora as well as fauna.
If I attempt to graft roses again, I will use your wrapping technique. Right now, however, I am far too excited about my experiments with rose hybridization to dabble in grafting. I hybridized my mother’s China rose with an English variety, and find myself in awe of the results—I’ve included a detailed breakdown of my hybridizing technique and my observed results, so you tell me: dare I hope the resulting shrubs will bloom all summer long?
In other news, it’s been very dull here since Miss Goodhue went to London—I hope you received the rhododendron I sent with her. It’s been dull here in general . . . which is not something I ever thought I would say. Usually, I enjoy the quiet. Plants don’t really thrive on loud noises and chaos, you know. But for some reason, I just feel a little anxious, as if I’ve been still for so long that I wonder if I can move when I need to. But I know that’s silly. I do things. Things outside of the greenhouse, even. I take tea with Leticia and I go into Helmsley on market days and I’ve been to three public balls this winter (I have yet to dance with a man taller than myself. I’m certain they exist, they just don’t care to dance), but I still feel this strange sense of “what if.”
Perhaps what I need is what you have—the ability to go visit excitement for a few days, and come home to work and silence, content.
I know this is a silly feeling that shall pass. I cannot imagine that I could ever be comfortable out of Helmsley and my greenhouse. But still . . . the strange notion exists.
I cannot tell you how delightful it is to have a friend who understands these things.
As always, yours—
My dear Margaret—
Of course. I’m always here to listen to silly notions and strange feelings. After all, what are friends for?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this story about a romance between two friends who deeply understand and appreciate each other's natures. I love that the main characters each have a strong interest in different areas of science, and that they support each other in their intellectual pursuits. It's wonderful to see Margaret and Rhys grow and develop as their mutual love allows them to become stronger people who can stand up to their fears and to others' expectations in order to fight for their chance of happiness together.
3.5 stars – rounded up - Title would have benefited from less attention to the descriptive (often repeated) details in favor of the "ooh factor" in the relationship and more attention to Regency details that were missed. I adore my historic romance, and love a heroine that is different from the norm. And Noble does manage to make Margaret different in look (tall, not a head-turning gorgeous specimen) who has both brains and ambitions to become a botanist with more skills tan just simple garden design and faffing about with plants. The story starts with an exchange of letters between Margaret and Rhys (the Doctor), as their gradual relationship develops from friendly acquaintances to friends….and then the story begins. Make no mistake, Noble packs plenty of story into this tale: lots of character development, plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing. And the relationship between Margaret and Rhys is plainly seen by readers: they are meant to be together, we all can see it, and they don’t take as long as some to see it for themselves. BUT There were things that kept me from ooh-ing and aah-ing at their connection and relationship, and even at the story itself. This is a Regency era story, set in England: yet all of the writing is determinedly and decidedly American. Conventions and social norms are completely ignored, not simply rewritten, and the story is far too modern to actually be considered a Regency in my book. Description, usually an element I long for more to set and fix visual imagery for me as a reader was ponderous. After reading, I discovered that this author used to write screenplays for television, and the oft-overworked and occasionally tortured descriptive moments, not simply ‘setting’ a scene for imagination to take flight but micromanaging that description, telling me WHAT to see, how to see it and in what order were far too frequent. It is, from my experience, a decided skill set not possessed by many screenwriters to understand and present descriptions that allow for a reader’s imagination and experience to fill out the details. It’s a hands-off approach that was missed here, and I think this book would have benefitted from less directed description and more attention to the “ooh factor” where Margaret and Rhys were concerned. All in all the book had its moments: Rhys was wonderful and decidedly ahead of his time where Margaret was concerned. And Margaret was upstanding, loyal and completely out of the norm where the more typical heroines of this era reside. People new to historical romance, or those more focused on clever twists, the will they or won’t they moments are sure to enjoy this title. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I really enjoyed Rhys and Margaret's story! I really liked that they became friends through their correspondence to each other and then when they see each other again, it starts to turn into something more. This was a great addition to the Winner Takes All series!
The Dare and the Doctor is another charming historical romance from author Kate Noble. I loved Margaret and Rhys! The Dare and the Doctor is the third book in the Winner Takes All series but it can be read as a standalone. Fans first met Margaret Babcock and Dr. Rhys Gray in The Lie and the Lady. Rhys is called upon his best friend to take care of Margaret’s father. As they spend time together they form a friendship that stays strong after Rhys returns to his hometown. Through their letters they share their excitement for their work, Margaret’s passion is botany and Rhys passion is his medical career. Their families and friends have no interest in their passions so the friendship they creates a stronger bond. Margaret and Rhys are both socially awkward but they have no problems opening up to each other. When Margaret shares an important discovery Rhys encourages her to visit London to speak with the Horticultural Society. Despite her fears Margaret goes to London and begins a new chapter in her life. She attends balls and makes new friends but something unexpected happens – her friendship with Rhys takes grows into something more. The Dare and the Doctor is a sweet friends to lover romance and I loved everything about it! The romance is a slow build and I thought it was a perfect pace since they both have no experience in being in love. Rhys understands Margaret and takes his time getting to know her better. They both are under the pressure of their families so that is another connection they have. I spent a lot of long nights reading this book because I did not want to put this down. I loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from author Kate Noble!
The Dare and the Doctor (Winner Takes All, #3) by Kate Noble This book was shared by the publisher with me. It is the second in this series that I have read. I am particularly fond of the authors writing style, the fact that she uses Victorian England as her setting but that the particular problems of that time are universal problems of that time and this. Young Margaret has been a recluse since the untimely death of her mother. Her budding corespondent conversations of an Academic nature have more to bring her out of the Greenhouse and into society. When Dr. Rhys has invited her down to London to present her new culture roses to the London Horticultural society. She is distracted by the parties and events and the nature of people in London from her true passion, gardening, and her friendship with Rhys. With the unfortunate events of his life Dr. Rhys, has focused on bettering himself. His familiar problems have placed an insurmountable burden on his shoulders. He is required to change his families fortune and circumstance by marriage to a rival family that has caused his father's banishment to the Continent. He attempts to avoid this by ignoring it. Yet like all things you ignore it comes back to haunt you. Only by finding his true path in life with he and Margaret find their happiness. The love scene is one to bring any reader to a state of longing.
Margaret and Rhys are friends--academic correspondents--and that's all. But when the opportunity for Margaret to present her new hybrid roses to the London Horticultural Society puts them in personal contact, rather than at letters' distance, their friendship shows nuances that neither had realized. Which is incredibly inconvenient for both of them, considering that Rhys is (unwillingly) promised to another woman in marriage to save his family's reputation... Both Margaret and Rhys appeared in previous books in the "Winner Takes All" series, and I approached this with some trepidation, given how awkward a character Margaret appeared in earlier volumes. She's blunt and forthright--and somewhat petulant--prior to this novel, and while she maintains the best of those characteristics, Noble manages to seamlessly incorporate what had initially appeared to be unattractive qualities and turn her no-nonsense heroine into an easy woman to empathize with. Rhys is already likeable in earlier installments, and his love for his family continues to elevate him (as does his chagrin at not taking into consideration whether the woman to whom he's promised feels just as awkwardly as he does about the situation). What I loved in this volume is the friend-chemistry between Margaret and Rhys. Even more than their physical attraction, it's the dialog where they understand each other's counter-to-the-norm ways of thinking about the world, and appreciate each other's insights, that make this a stand above. I love all of Noble's previous books, particularly the more espionage-centered Blue Raven books, but I'm tempted to say this one is her best yet.
Dr. Rhys Gray and Miss Margaret Babcock have been corresponding. He once treated her father for gout and during that time, they discovered a mutual interest in plants and gardening. When Rhys shares Margaret’s success with the hybridization of roses with a member of the Horticultural Society of London, they are quite interested in seeing her plants and they invite her to London. Margaret got her love of gardening from her mother. They enjoyed spending time with their plants. But one winter, her mother became ill, died and her father remarried not long after. Margaret is a tall young woman and according to her mother, a late bloomer. Having spent so much time with her plants, she realizes that her wardrobe is sadly outdated. Her stepmother has been a big help in guiding her to buy some new clothes. Now, Margaret is not sure if she wants to go to London but she remembers how her mother used to encourage her to do things by saying, “I dare you.” So, Margaret, her father, and stepmother all head to London. They take several rose plants with them which are nervously coddled along the way. Rhys has opened his family’s home in London and learns that his mother and siblings are traveling there as well. It seems that his mother has decided that it is time that he should get married. Margaret and Rhys are happy to be together again and continue their friendship. He enjoys introducing her to the sights of London. As a very tall woman, she often feels awkward around people but remembers her mother daring her to do things she may be afraid to do. Can a loving relationship bud out for these two? This is a clever story which shows that the author obviously put a lot of research into writing this story. I was quite impressed by that. This author is also well-known for the humor she adds to her books which makes her characters a lot of fun. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This was a good read for me, I liked the characters as well as the story. The story is fast paced and entertaining. Rhys and Margaret have great chemistry. Enjoyable historical read.