The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake

Eleanor “Nora” Beady was orphaned after her whole family was struck with a deadly pox. Her doctor, Horace Croft, took her in to continue to study her under the pretense of saving the girl from a fate of life in an orphanage. So Nora grows up under the care of the housekeeper Mrs. Phipps while learning anatomy from Dr. Croft.

She develops into a wonderful anatomist, but she isn’t allowed to go to medical school or practice medicine because she is a woman. It is illegal for her to do more than practice as a midwife or nurse.

However, the eccentric Dr. Croft continues to teach her and allow her to assist in medical procedures. When a new doctor, Daniel Gibson, joins the practice, she is at risk of being discovered. If he reveals that Nora is a trained and practicing surgeon, she could be jailed or institutionalized.

Nora is a doctor at heart. She won’t turn her back on a suffering patient and that gets her into a bit of trouble. If she reveals her crucial role in saving a patient with a new surgery, she will be saving countless other lives with the medical breakthrough, but dooming herself to exile.

Will she accept that she will never be a doctor and let the men take credit for her success? Or will she risk everything to be given credit where credit is due?

First of all, what a beautiful cover. I love the color palette with Eleanor the doctor featured front and center. She’s got her doctor’s bag and is looking confident. The border is colorful with subtle medical instruments along the two sides. Her reflection makes me think of her place in two worlds: the one she was born into and the one she strives to create for herself.

I am stunned by how much I liked this historical fiction. It’s not usually a genre that makes me excited to see what happens next, but this one takes the cake.

I enjoyed the medical setting and was surprised by how little knowledge there was then.

There is not too much gore or ickiness. Any medical procedures are described in a way to let the reader know what is going on, but not be overly yucky. It was shocking to read about performing surgery on conscious patients, but that’s what they knew at the time. There was no general anesthesia or pain meds like today. So this played well as historical fiction and held true to the setting.

The characters were fun to read. I liked that Dr. Croft was useless at anything besides being a doctor. He was incapable of caring for his domestic affairs and quite frankly, he was also a bit bad at the logistics of being a doctor. If he didn’t have Mrs. Phipps to run the house and Nora to run this practice, he’d be a failure. This was pretty common for that era when women were doing 99% of the real work to keep society running, but men got all of the credit.

Nora was wonderful. She was passionate and inquisitive. I liked that she got her version of a happy ending, even though it meant doing something scary. Mrs. Phipps was adorable and I wish she could get the recognition she deserves for all of her hard work. When she took in those puppies I about cried with how sweet she was.

Readers who enjoy women-centered historical fiction will like this one (despite more main male characters than females overall). But Nora is an inspiration and Mrs. Phipps is wonderful.

You’ll like this historical fiction page-turner.

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