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13 / 30 books. 43% done!

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50 / 52 books. 96% done!

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84 / 165 books. 51% done!
Monday, October 18, 2021

Despite Intriguing Premise, Historical Novel is a Slllooowww, Forced-Myself-to-Finish-It Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Propriety is important in Victorian England.  Just not to eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft.  Ever since he took in Nora Beady—an 8-year-old orphan—he's been teaching and training her.  Now 21, she's an invaluable medical assistant as well as a gifted surgeon in her own right.  Capable as she is, even Dr. Croft realizes that Nora's interest in medicine would be seen by outsiders as shocking, manly, and unnatural.  It must be kept secret at all costs.  When Croft brings a young doctor into his practice, Nora fears she will be found out.  Forced to act like a proper lady, hiding her ability in the surgery, she feels like she's going mad.  When she makes an important discovery, one that could change medicine forever, Nora is torn between offending society by revealing her true self and boldly claiming her own discovery instead of letting the men around her take credit.  Is she brave enough to risk everything by finally stepping out of the shadows into the spotlight?

With its striking cover and intriguing premise, how could I not be drawn to The Girl in His Shadow, a debut novel by Audrey Blake (a pseudonym for writing duo Regina Sirois and Jaima Fixsen)?  I've seen rave reviews as well, so I was eager to read it.  Its subject—the role of women in early medicine—is certainly fascinating.  Though gory, the book's depictions of 19th Century efforts to learn about disease and how to treat it makes for interesting reading.  As for the story, though?  It's sllooowwww.  Without a structured plot to keep it focused and forward-moving, the tale drags, making it very putdownable.  The characters are likable, but not super complex or memorable, which contributes to the meh-ness of the novel.  While Nora is sympathetic and kind, she lacks the vulnerability that makes me really root for a character.  I felt like she would be fine no matter what and that, while the back cover copy touts how much risk she takes in the story, in actuality she never really risks or loses very much.  That made it tough for me to care about what happened to her, meaning I just never got all that invested in her or this book.  I did plow through The Girl in His Shadow, but that's exactly what the reading experience felt like: work.  I wanted to really like this one; unfortunately, I had to force myself to finish it. Bummer.

(Readalikes:  The premise reminds me of the Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber, The Madman's Daughter series by Megan Shepherd, and Mistress in the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Girl in His Shadow from the generous folks at Sourcebooks via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

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