This is a combination of two genres you don’t often see together; medical romance and historical romance. Frankly, the state of medicine in the mid-19th century doesn’t lend itself well to doctor heroes, considering most of them were very keen on bloodletting and had little clue about hygiene.
Doctor John Steele, however, is on the cutting edge (no pun intended) of medicine. He believes in the germ theory of infection, and has specialized in surgery on ‘women’s troubles’ which, in practice, means performing hysterectomies and oophorectomies (ovarian removal). This in an era when many doctors wouldn’t even touch a female patient, to protect their reputation, set him up as a target when something goes wrong - which of course, it does. After the death of a patient for which he is blamed, John retreats to lick his wounds, with a convenient bolthole of a house his aunt just left him after her passing. And this is where the heroine comes in… Margaret is his next door neighbour, daughter of a well-respected family.
Margaret is rather fascinated by their grumpy new neighbour. He’d obviously like to keep her at arms length - but he’s unwillingly impressed by her calm good sense, and soon enough he’s asking for her help, needing her to assist in a surgery when he cannot turn a desperate young woman away. (Trigger warnings: the surgeries do get a little gory). Margaret is very intelligent and keen to pursue the study of medicine herself - she even applies to Harvard - and I really liked that John was so supportive of her goals.
The romance is never in danger of being overwhelmed by the medical issues side of the story here; the attraction is there from the first moment for John and Margaret, but they don’t start to act on it until a level of trust has been established between them. There are a couple of nicely done love scenes (I thought from the cover this might be a sweet/inspirational romance, so don’t be taken in - this isn’t closed-door).
Overall, this is a really excellent story, inspired by real-life historical figures and events, with a solid romance at the heart of it. I have no hesitation in awarding it five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via Rachel’s Random Resources.