The Girl in His Shadow

Written by Amelia Blake
Review by Jessica Brockmole

Orphaned Nora Beady grew up in the cluttered, unconventional home of London surgeon Dr. Horace Croft. Dr. Croft believes in science, not rules, and when he finds in Nora a talent and a predilection for anatomy, he ignores her gender and nurtures those skills, first on cadavers and anatomical drawings, then in medical research and surgeries in his private clinic. In 1845 London, though, it is illegal for a woman to practice medicine. If the Royal College of Surgeons knew that Nora operated alongside Dr. Croft, it could mean imprisonment. The arrival of a strait-laced young under-surgeon to his clinic threatens Nora’s secret. Dr. Daniel Gibson thinks that Nora is just Dr. Croft’s ward, keeping house and occasionally nursing patients in his recovery rooms. He does not suspect that she is a more well-trained and skilled surgeon than he is. Daniel has problems of his own, however, when a patient’s death jeopardizes his standing in the surgical community. When Nora makes a groundbreaking scientific discovery, she must choose: Does she let Daniel take the credit, thus saving his career, or reveal her expertise, destroying her own?

Audrey Blake’s debut is assured, engaging, and full of fascinating detail and richly realized characters. We see London mostly through the patients who come into Croft’s clinic, but the medical world within its walls is vivid and well-researched. Nora, Daniel, and Dr. Croft are smart, complex, and determined, with their own sets of quirks and strengths. Blake has set up convincing obstacles and complex decisions for Nora and Daniel, making for a nicely plotted narrative. Although there is a sweet, slow-blooming love story within the book, it is only one. Nora’s passion for medicine is also a love story you’ll be cheering for.