The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake (aka Regina Sirois & Jaima Fixsen)
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
This book has my heart! I had so many emotions while reading it and it was so close to being perfection. Sometimes it is hard for me to pinpoint what makes a book 5-stars for me vs a 4 or 4.5-star and this one is somewhere in the middle.
Let’s start with the overall themes of this book. It is EXACTLY what I want out of a historical fiction. We have a strong, smart, and capable woman who does not fit what is considered the ‘norm’ of a lady in society - and she is absolutely fascinating. There’s a crotchety but well-meaning older man who does his best to do right by her - even if it’s misconstrued. A support system that gives tough love. A potential love interest who has a flushed out backstory before being dropped into view and has their own conflicting opinions that suit the time but also hint at forward thinking. I could go on and on.
The Girl in His Shadow is centered around a woman who has been trained (albeit by happenstance) in surgical skills which she is more than capable of; but she lives in a time where it is illegal for her to practice. If she is found out, it spells disaster. Then suddenly she has to balance her call to heal and her need to keep her skill a secret when a young doctor comes to train under the in-house surgeon. Who is also her father figure.
It is rife with tension, hope, despair, strength, vulnerability, and so much more. I felt so much of this in the pit of my stomach and I know that this book will stick with me.
It was a pleasant surprise to find this book written with dual perspective switching between Nora and Daniel and was the perfect way to get a well-rounded view of the story. The growth that happens for both of them is perfectly paced and every moment is well-earned.
Something that I think is important to note is that there is a lot of graphically described medical scenarios which come up fairly frequently - I mean, this book DOES follow surgeons. They are clearly well researched and well-written to the point that I felt like I was in the room taking part in the procedures. You can really feel for these characters in their excitement over their experiments and heartbreak over failures with your whole being.
If you want a unique historical fiction, I highly recommend picking this one up. It subverts expectation in the best way and leaves you wanting more.