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Publication Date: June 1st, 2021
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company
Genre: Historical Fiction
Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel's real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts's lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all.
As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can't help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities?
This story took me by surprise. I was expecting a story about a woman moving on with her life after her time in a reformatory by working as a dental assistant and discovering new friendships. While that is the basis of the plot, it does go in an unexpected direction.
It was a pleasant surprise to find the plot including the struggles and lengths that Hazel goes to try and clear her name of a crime she was sent to the reformatory for. For a good portion of the book, we followed along as Hazel and her friends became amateur detectives trying to get to the truth. I really did enjoy this aspect of the story even if it wasn’t the quiet and homey story I thought I was getting into. However, there was a good amount of that as well.
I had fun learning about this little town and the people within it. I loved the husking tradition and felt that it brought more history to the characters. Gilbert was a wonderful type of leading man that I don’t see often because he is genuinely such a good man. He is certainly quiet and warmed up to Hazel a bit quicker than I anticipated considering how his character is described by those around him… and even himself at times. Hazel was great as well. I found her to be extremely interesting and independent but she was also able to show her vulnerability in an honest way. And Hazel, like Gilbert, is simply and inherently a good person even though it took her a bit of time to learn from her past. Her growth did not seem out of place.
An aspect that I was a little disappointed in was the lack of actual dentistry. As a previous dental assistant myself, I was excited to see how Fordham would write about the occupation in 1898. While there was a little bit of it, the scenes in the office revolved more about art and talking than actually performing dentistry. I can’t help but compare it to The Girl in his Shadow by Audrey Blake in that sense because Blake was able to tell the story while also giving amazing insight into a surgeon’s occupation. I can understand, though, that dentistry wasn’t the prime purpose for the book haha. I will say, it was lovely to have such a great character being a dentist and apparently a good one at that!
The overall story was enjoyable and the decisions that characters had to make were difficult at times. You could really feel the struggle over how they made their choices along with what happens after. I liked that it took unexpected turns and kept me wondering what would happen to these characters next. I think I just wanted a bit more. I’m unsure if I want a longer story or more conflict or just more scenes but I think it’s a good thing that Fordham created a story that I want to have more of.