The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake
Sometimes, I find myself on the first page of a book and immediately know — there’s something special here. Barely a few words in, the story already screams five stars. It’s a rare and elusive sort of magic. Indescribable, except for the gut-feeling of a bookworm.
That was this book for me.
About the book:
(From the publisher): Raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic, the orphan Nora Beady knows little about conventional life. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolors, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections.
Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted—and secret—assistant. That is until the new surgical resident Dr. Daniel Gibson arrives. Dr. Gibson has no idea that Horace’s bright and quiet young ward is a surgeon more qualified and ingenuitive than even himself. In order to protect Dr. Croft and his practice from scandal and collapse Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role—that of a proper young lady.
But pretense has its limits. Nora cannot turn away and ignore the suffering of patients even if it means giving Gibson the power to ruin everything she’s worked for. And when she makes a discovery that could change the field forever, Nora faces an impossible choice. Remain invisible and let the men around her take credit for her work, or let the world see her for what she is—even if it means being destroyed by her own legacy.
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From the first few pages of the prologue, this story had me hooked! Blake writes in a way that is rich and captivating. The attention to detail and vivid descriptions transport readers to the gritty and disease-ridden world of 19th century London. And I, for one, could not get enough!
The Girl in His Shadow isn’t your typical historical read. The chapters are full of early surgical procedures — complete with autopsies, amputations, and mentions of severed limbs and body parts in jars. But while the chapters feature the medical and scientific, it’s written in a way that’s not only easy to understand but also deeply engaging. Scenes with surgical procedures feel immaculately researched. And (despite my natural tendency towards squeamishness) this attention to detail made the whole thing absolutely riveting.
In fact, I couldn’t put this one down!
Everything about this book feels strong: setting, characters, plot. (Even the secondary characters felt nuanced and well constructed.) The story feels fresh and the writing is so well built, you would never know that it had been written by two authors.
My only wish? That I could read more.
All in all, this has been my favourite read of 2021 so far! If you like medical stories and/or historical fiction with inspirational female characters, I HIGHLY recommend checking this one out!