by Diana Lee Johnson

June 2002
ISBN: 1-59088-072-2
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All her life all Brenna McKeon wanted to be is a doctor, but with the outbreak of the Civil War, she has to put her dream on temporary hold. However, it didn’t mean that she had to stop learning; with a father who is a doctor and a surgeon, she developed her skills far beyond a first year medical student. As the war rages on, her brothers off to war, Brenna is left to take care of two family farms and the remaining slaves. Worse, her father is suddenly killed by a Union officer who didn’t want his gangrenous leg amputated.

Matthew Keene is lucky enough to pass by Dinsmore, Brenna’s family farm. With a shot in his chest and leg, there’s no other person qualified to treat him, and who has patched up more soldiers from both sides, than Brenna. To Brenna, Matthew is quickly becoming more than a patient, and soon her care and soft touches likewise affects Matthew. Despite their budding romance, Brenna and Matthew have secrets they would rather keep to themselves. Can their love survive the war, Brenna’s ambition and their lies?

Brenna’s not your typical Southern woman. She’s not squeamish, nor is she given to fits of vanity. She’s first and foremost a doctor – that is, until Matthew comes along, and all her womanly instincts surfaces! Even though she's a Southerner and had slaves (it was their way of life), she doesn’t believe in slavery and has, in fact, given parcels of land to those who chose to remain with her family rather than flee up North. There are many outstanding qualities to Brenna; however, although her stubbornness and determination are qualities that help her achieve her dreams, when it comes to her love life, it becomes her eventual downfall.

Matthew was a bit of a disappointment. Although Diana Lee Johnson has appropriately granted him hero-like qualities and more than manly attributes, there’s something to be said about a man who’s severely hampered by illness for most of the story. Just when he tries to help Brenna, his physical abilities limit his actions. As a reader, it becomes easy to empathize with Matthew’s frustrations – we want a man who has the ability to save the damsel in distress! But he makes up for it in other ways, especially in the bedroom!

There were a couple of unconvincing actions that Brenna does, such as riding by herself to God-knows-where to help soldiers when she comes upon them. Then there’s a bit about President Lincoln sponsoring her medical school…. The last quarter of the book is essentially Brenna’s journey to becoming a doctor, with Matthew completely out of her life at this point.

But Ms. Johnson’s style is engaging and, with regards to Civil War matters, thoroughly compelling. The Wrong Side of Love has admirable characters who have grit and determination – if you’ve got nothing else, it might be worth it to have this in the back to toggle to between dull computer tasks.

Reviewed in July 2002 by Veronica.

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