Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Review: The Nurse's Secret

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am a sucker for a nurse heroine - and if it's a nurse who is wily and cunning with secrets to hide? Gimme, gimme, gimmeThe Nurse's Secret by Amanda Skenandore tells the story of Una Kelly, a pickpocket working the streets of New York City, under the thumb of a pawn broker / fence. And while Una owes the woman for taking her off the streets and teaching her a trade (well, of sorts) Una is at the point where she wants freedom. Unfortunately her bid for freedom leads to Una witnessing a murder.  As if that weren't unsettling enough?  The cops catch up to Una fairly quickly and think she murdered the victim in that dark alley.  Una's boss, having now discovered Una's plan to break free, is not about to stick her neck out for a disloyal "employee."  Una is on her own - which means it's a good thing she's resourceful.
Una ends up extricating herself from the cops and her immediate concern is staying hidden until they move along and give up on the case.  Her brilliant idea?  Bellevue Hospital has just opened a state of the art nursing school.  Only young women of good quality and from good families need apply - which means Una is screwed.  But she's spent a life on the streets. She's smart. She's resourceful. Which means she's now a nurse probationer at Bellevue Hospital.  But it's much more than Una bargained for. The doctors are largely insufferable, there's a prickly instructor who takes an immediate dislike to her, her goody-goody roommate is a chatterbox and good Lord it's hard work! Plus there's the small matter she's wanted by the cops. It's a tightrope our girl is walking, and it gets all the more precarious when the murderer seems to have found her to Bellevue...

What stuck with me most about this book was the world-building, which is dynamite.  You're reading late 19th century New York City with all the glamor stripped away. If you like your historical fiction to be all pretty gowns and glittering balls, yeah this is not the book you're looking for. It's tenements, toil, the constant struggle and uncertainty of living a life of poverty. Bridgerton this ain't and I loved every gritty moment of it.

Una is plucky and resourceful even if she does some bone-headed things over the course of the story that you just KNOW are going to come back to bite her in the butt (and shocker, they do).  Her character arc is fantastic though. She goes from looking out for nobody but herself to slowly opening herself up to relationships (a love interest and a friendship with her roommate). The layers begin to peel back and the reader see the vulnerabilities lying underneath.

The mystery itself is OK.  Honestly by the 70% mark it hit me like a lightning bolt whodunit, and then I felt like a moron for not seeing it sooner.  I mean, it's obvious.  The whole thing also hinges on a major coincidence.  In the city the size of New York and the murderer just happens to find Una at Bellevue?  OK, sure.  I'll roll with it.

But even though the mystery wasn't much a brain-bender, I still really enjoyed this story. The world-building, the female friendship between Una and her roommate, and the romance between Una and a doctor/intern.  It kept me flipping the pages and I was curious to see how the author was going to untangle Una from a murder rap (it doesn't disappoint - the ending is a bit of a frenzy!).  It's not driving the central plot, but there's a pretty nice romantic thread that should keep romance readers invested. If you like your historicals on the grittier side and are looking for something outside of Dukey McDukeville - here you go. 

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

I read the sample and I am so tempted to get it--gritty is GOOD, and I'm seriously sold on NYC in the late 1880s--but, I'll be honest, right now the price for the digital copy is above my mental target for a digital license (aka, ebooks). Hopefully I'll be able to snatch it at some point when it goes on sale.

Wendy said...

AL: I think this is trade paperback in print, so yes - the digital price is high. The good news is that it's published by Kensington and I wouldn't be surprised to see a sale sometime in the future. It was a late June release - so maybe we'll see the price come down sometime in the new year?