Cover Image: The Nurse's Secret

The Nurse's Secret

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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley and Kensington books for access to this arc. 

There is a romance thread in the story but the bulk of it is historical fiction about Una and how she negotiates living her life. The sections that detail the horrific poverty in which the poorest of NYC’s citizens lived doesn’t skip how things were. It was dog-eat-dog, claw your way through each day, give no quarter. Una has a list of rules by which she lives (which sort of reminded me of Zombieland but without the zombies) and among the top ones is look out for yourself first. This is what has kept her alive and which guides her actions and thoughts about the people around her. Una finds it hard to believe that anyone would do a kindness for her and not expect something in return. It’s only gradually that she discovers herself making a friend and not always keeping her eye out for a chance to take advantage of Drusilla. I thought this aspect of the plot was well handled.

Another hurrah from me is because of the medical stuff. This was just at the stage when the pioneering practices of Joseph Lister were being introduced in hospitals. Some doctors believed in them while others felt them to be poppycock. There also isn’t the type of medical character that I sometimes see in historical stories who “somehow” has stumbled upon advanced things that miraculously save a patient. The classism and bigotry against anyone not educated, well off and Protestant isn’t brushed under the rug either.

While I felt this part of the novel was well done in characterization, motivation and description, I felt the murder mystery aspect wasn’t as good. It’s sort of there are the start of the book and serves as the main driver for Una needing to get off the streets to avoid being arrested for a murder she didn’t commit. But then it fades to the background for a while and is only revived a good bit later. When it is, it quickly became clear to me who I thought the murderer was. Maybe I’ve just watched enough true crime documentaries and series but yeah, it’s fairly obvious. Would it have been to the people of this time? In all fairness probably not.

Una doesn’t go down without swinging and trying to get her licks in so I wasn’t surprised at her actions at the end of the story. With her back to the wall, she again draws on her skills and knowledge to try and work things her way. The resolution of the two issues facing her are … maybe a little gift wrapped with a stretched bow of believability but then again not everything was neatly tucked up like hospital bed corners. I’m satisfied with the HFN and working towards a future ending that we get. B
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The Nurse's Secret is the second book I have read by Amanda Skenandore, the first one being The Second Life of Mirielle West.  That book was excellent, so I was excited to read her latest.  I absolutely loved this one and devoured it!  Ms. Skenandore is an actual registered nurse and her knowledge of that esteemed profession truly adds life to her stories.

In 1883 Gilded Age New York City, there's a big difference between the haves and the have-nots.  Una Kelly belongs in the latter category.  Her mother died when she was young and her father ended up being an opium addict, so Una really can't rely on anyone but herself.  She's a grifter who spends her time picking pockets and running cons, and she lives in a squalid tenement with a number of other women.  One evening she meets a fence to do business, but he ends up being murdered and Una is charged with the crime, though she is innocent...well, of the murder, anyway.  Knowing the place where she will end up being imprisoned will be the death of her, she must find a place to hide out.  A magazine article catches her eye:  Bellevue Hospital is accepting trainees for its nursing school, the first of its kind in America.  She cons her way into the school where she will be provided room and board and a small stipend; she'll lay low until the coast is clear.  Una, for all her intentions to just get by for as long as possible, seems to actually have an affinity for nursing, and becomes a reluctant friend to her roommate Drusilla and begins a burgeoning romance with intern Edwin Westervelt.  However,  Una becomes suspicious that a patient's death may actually have been a murder.  Does she keep her head down and her mouth shut and stay hidden, or risk her new life to discover and expose a murderer?

I didn't particularly care for Una Kelly at the beginning of this story, but like the heroine in The Second Life of Mirielle West, her character evolved into one that you couldn't help but root for and end up loving by story's end.  Una had such a difficult life after the death of her mother and then her father's downward spiral.  She had personal rules she followed to keep herself safe and free; when she deviated from them, however, things didn't end well, hence her predicament of needing to hide out.  I loved Una's transformation from grifter to nurse.  She didn't suddenly change her stripes, it was gradual and she sometimes fought it kicking and screaming.  She found her roommate Dru to be annoyingly chipper and overly friendly, then eventually realized she actually had a friend she could rely upon.  Most of the men in Una's world wanted one thing from a woman, yet she found Dr. Westervelt to be respectful, charming and caring.  She did her best to resist him, as he believed her to be totally different from who she really was due to the lies she had to tell everyone.  She did have a friend in Barney, a young newsman she met on the street who would help her in a time of need.  The nursing school at Bellevue was simply fascinating.  How different it all was in the 1880's!  (And thank God for that!). Many doctors treated the nurses like subhumans not deserving of respect; it was like nurses were children, to be seen, not heard and expected to obey without question.  Compared to today, medicine seemed brutal and primitive.  Some doctors didn't want to learn new methods, such as those espoused by Dr. Lister.  Descriptions of illness and injury are not for the faint of heart.  You'll read about horrid factory accidents, leeches, oozing sores, etc.  I loved how the author made everything sound so realistic with her actual medical training, but didn't lecture or overwhelm you.  The murder mystery was a lot of fun and intriguing, though I admit I figured out whodunit early on.  But it was a great story with a unique heroine you'll just love.  I cannot wait to see what this author will have for us next!

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.  I received no compensation for my review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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After her mother died in a fire and her father became lost to drink and the opium dens, Una Kelly takes to the streets of the Five Points in New York. She is picked up by Marm Blei who teaches her to be an expert pickpocket. When a deal goes wrong, a murder is pinned on Una. She escapes the police, but has lost Marm Blei's protection. When Una sees an advertisement for nurse trainees at Bellevue Training School, she takes the opportunity to lie low for a while. In her new position, Una not only makes friends, but finds she might actually be good at nursing once she puts some effort into it. A life on the streets around a variety of different people as well as sickness, blood and filth has prepared her well. However, the strange murders that happened in the Points seem to be following her to the school. Una may be able to catch the killer, but she will have to expose her true self. 

The Nurse's Secret is a beautifully written historical fiction story set in 1880's New York City. The characters were all intriguing and I was engrossed with Una's story from the beginning where she was observing people to steal from and then helping a younger thief at the same time. The vivid descriptions brought the Five Points neighborhood to life as well as Bellevue Training School and the medical procedures there. I enjoyed seeing Una change as well as excel in Bellevue. With her roommate, Dru, Una was able to see what true friends are like and finally trust someone as well as have them trust her back. I found it interesting that Una was able to relate to all the patients there better than some of the other nurses due to her time on the streets. The incorporation of the mystery carried suspense throughout the story even though I had a good idea of who the culprit might be. The romance was well done and did not detract from the story. Overall, The Nurse's Secret is an immersive story of 1880's New York with strong characters and a great mystery. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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I went into this book not knowing exactly what it was about, but that the cover and title seemed interesting. I will say the first few chapters had me a little skeptical that I would enjoy this book at all, but I am so glad I stuck with it because this book was amazing. 

The character development, of not only the main character Una, but also of all of the other characters is impeccable and so much fun to watch. You really get to know each character throughout the story and watching them change who they are and the things they believe is so enticing. By the end of the book, you feel as if you really know each of the characters. 

The story in and of itself is also really fun to follow. Seeing how everything goes together and trying to find out how everything is going to end, will not quite leave you on the edge of your seat, but it will keep you wanting more. 

****************************************** SPOILERS *******************************************

I had my suspicions on who the killer was by the second meeting of Conor. He was so adamant about how terrible these people were that it would've been hard to see anyone else as the killer. He was such an interesting character to see though. As he was not overly annoying or even in the book so much that you were constantly thinking of him. He was just a character that popped up when he was needed, but also enough that you knew him and who he was. 

I also love the relationship between Dru and Una. Their friendship is amazing and something to strive for. I was so happy, and heartbroken, when Dru confessed to the patient dying being her fault, even though it wasn't. I was so sad that she did that for Una when Una just threw her under the bus, but I was also happy Una finally got to see what a true friend looked like in times of trouble. I was so glad when Dru was understanding at the end when Una finally came clean about everything. Dru didn't look at her any differently, just said "Well that makes sense." and when on about her business and their friendship like nothing was wrong. That is a true friend.

I also love seeing the relationship unfold between Una and Edwin. I like that they both had troubles in their past, but neither exploited the other because of it. I felt bad for Edwin when he found out Una had been lying to him for so long, but I'm also glad he believed her enough to find out about Conor on his own- thus saving Una's life. I am also glad that neither of them just up and forgave the other. Edwin knew he had the right to be upset about Una lying, but he also knew he was in the wrong for telling her to trust him and then turning his back on her. Una also had the right to be upset at Edwin, but she also knew it was partially her fault for having to lie to begin with- which Edwin did understand after it all came out. I am glad they decided to start over and take things slow instead of just jumping into the relationship like nothing had happened.

The book ends so well and does not need a sequel or anything else about the story. But I do kind of wish we could have seen why the superintendent was skeptical of Una and didn't like her at first. And I really want to know why the nurse didn't like her and accused her of theft- also what actually happened to her scarf? I understand that in life we don't always find everything out, but I am still curious.

Overall though I did love this book and can't wait to see how others feel once it is released.
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I really enjoyed the author’s previous novel - The Second Life of Mirielle  West - so I was really excited about this one .

But I just couldn’t connect with Una and her story .  It’s an ok book, just not great for me 🤷‍♀️
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If you like historical fiction, as I do, you’ll love this well written novel by Amanda Skenandore. I grew up on Sue Barton and Cherry Ames nursing adventures as a child and likewise have been drawn to historical fiction with a focus on nurses. So it isn’t a surprise that is where I ended up, as well.  
This was an intriguing story of a young girl, Una Kelly, living on the tough  streets of NYC in the late 1800s, grifting, stealing, and lying to survive. When a man is murdered and she is suspected, she takes refuge in the newly opened nursing school at NYC Bellevue Hospital, scamming her way into the nursing program,  with plans to continue her grifting and stealing until the search for her blows over. Naturally she can’t stay out of trouble and as a few more murders occur, she fears for her safety.
Amanda Skenandore is a wonderful story teller and brings her nursing experience into her novels. Her characters are interesting, with tragic backgrounds, as they struggle to survive the dangerous streets of NY.
Despite Una’s shady background, it’s easy to see her inner strength and the good that can be found beneath the layers. This is well told and well written and I really enjoyed it.
My thanks to NetGalley, the author, and Kensington Publishing for the ARC.
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Una Kelly, pick-pocket, grifter, and scammer is at the wrong place at the wrong time.  The person she was to meet has been murdered.  She is arrested and jailed.  Her 'connections' get her out, but she must go into hiding.  

She lucks into a position at the first nursing class held at Bellevue Hospital, essentially hiding in plain sight from the law.  As she gets more involved in the nursing profession, Una develops friendships, that she'd never had before, and a romantic interest come into play.  More incidents of the seamier side develop, and a mystery is woven into the fabric of this book.

I really enjoyed this!  The author has definitely done her homework regarding the time frame and the conditions of hospitals then.  The mystery was good, although it was easy to see who done it!  I'd recommend this book to friends who enjoy historical fiction and those who like a little mystery in their reading .

Thanks to Kensington and NetGalley for the e-ARC.  The review is my own.
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There are two reasons that I was drawn to this book: 1) I loved this author's last book, The Second Life of MIrielle West, and 2) Being a nurse, I was interested to learn about the first American nurses training school that opened at Bellevue Hospital in 1873, one hundred years before I started nursing school.

The main character, Una, seems to be a very unlikely candidate for nursing school. Working the wards at Bellevue Hospital as a trainee nurse is a far cry from Una's previous vocation as a pick pocket and a thief. But, she uses her new identity to escape the police and a possible jail sentence for suspected murder. Una must learn to adapt in her new role while continuing to deceive others, even those who come to love her. At the same time, she uses all her skills and knowledge in an attempt to unveil a dangerous murderer, even if it means revealing her own secrets.

I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that medicine and surgery today has come a long way from the medical care and treatment of patients in the 1800s and so has the training of nurses. The storyline and the mystery in this novel run seamlessly and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to friends and fans of historical fiction who love a strong female protagonist.

My sincere thanks to NetGalley  and Kensington Publishing Corp. for the digital ARC of this book.
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The Nurse’s Secret by Amanda Skenandore is an intriguing historical novel.  I thought The Nurse’s Secret was well-written with realistic, developed characters.  I found Una Kelly to be a resilient woman who is resourceful and clever.  She had to survive after the death of her mother and her father’s decline into alcohol. I liked seeing Una’s character change as she learned nursing and made friendships.  The book has a good premise.  I was drawn into The Nurse’s Secret, and it held my interest.  I liked learning about Bellevue and the school of nursing.  We see how Lister’s ideas on germ prevention were ridiculed (he was far ahead of his time). Medical procedures were described and some of them had me cringing.  Patients dying from conditions that can now be easily cured.  Sometimes the treatment was worse than the disease.  I thought the author captured the time period very well.  I can tell she did her research especially regarding the nursing school.  I thought she captured the attitudes of people.  How the doctors treated nurses, snobbery of people with better breeding, and how people felt about Catholics and Irish. The mystery is well-plotted.  I enjoyed following	 the clues (I love solving mysteries) to see if I could identify the guilty party.  There is romance too.  Una meets a doctor who is kind and intelligent.  She does not know, though, if it is possible to have a happily ever after when she is hiding out from the law.  This was an engaging and enjoyable historical novel.  The Nurse’s Secret combines survival instincts, friendship, nursing, a murder mystery, and romance into one absorbing tale.   Nurse’s Secret is an appealing historical novel with a talented pickpocket, a formidable fence, an offensive officer, an appealing article, a helpful hideout, a negative nelly nurse, and a tenacious killer.
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There was so much covered in The Nurse's Secret that it is hard to know where to begin! It is historical fiction, with a strong mystery component as well as insight into life in late 19th century New York City, the early age of nursing/nursing education, and some friendship and romance too. I really enjoyed the mystery element – it was truly unique and suspenseful to watch Una investigate, follow her suspicions, and use her wit/gut to pursue something incredibly unbelievable… murders in the Bellevue Hospital. Una as a character was not always likeable but she was realistic so I admire that. I felt the historical elements and relationships within this book were great too. But overall I rated this book a little lower because the mystery element seemed so unbelievable (even though it was well written). I just didn’t see how she just happened to be connected to these murders/this killer so closely. I would have appreciated seeing more of Una as a person after the mystery was “solved” too. This book was well written, and seemed very well researched… it just didn’t sit right with me all the time.  

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this advanced ebook copy. I am glad to have read it even though it wasn’t my favorite! All opinions are my own.
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Thoroughly enjoyed this story of Una, a woman who has started off with a very hard life and enters a nursing program to lay low from the police for a crime she didn’t commit. The nursing program does much more than help her lay low. Has some mystery, romance and drama. And even though at times you don’t really like the main character, the writing has you rooting for her. Being a nurse I really enjoyed reading about the nursing practices back in the late 1800s from the book.
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Una is a grifter, used to fending for herself in the slums of 1880s New York City. When stumbles upon a dead man and suddenly finds herself in the hot seat she escapes with nowhere to hide. Una comes across an article advertising Bellevue Hospital's new nursing program based on the nursing principles of Florence Nightingale. Seeing tat the program gave the student nurses room and board for 2 years she devises a scheme and conning her way into the program., the perfect place to hide in plain sight. Una soon finds out that to be able to remain in the program and maintain her cover she is going to have to do more than con her way through, she is actually going to have to pay attention and learn the skills being taught or face her luck back out on the street. 
I really enjoyed this book, I not only learned about a part of history I knew nothing about , but I was pleasantly entertained by Una's story. There wasn't too much depth to the mystery in the story, it was very superficial but that is ok, the rich historical detail and Una's bad-ass, spunky personality make for an engaging, fast aced read. I give it 4+ stars and recommend to all Historical fiction lovers. 
Thank you to Kensington Books and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return.
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Within the pages of this book readers will find a story about the first nursing school of its kind in the United States. Skenandore applies meticulous research to describing the school's founding principles, the qualities that administrators looked for in candidates, and the accepted medical practices at the time. Nursing students were upheld to the strictest of standards both professionally and personally. Readers may be surprised though at how the older generation of doctors seemingly dismissed the overall value of disinfecting prior to and after surgery. 
Fictional character Una provides the context by which the story unveils itself. Una's life on the streets brought with it loneliness, hardship, and financial insecurity. While Una pretends to be a strong self-sufficient person, one single choice means that she is in the wrong place at the wrong time. A single newspaper advertisement provides Una with an idea that will not only safeguard her for the short-term but will ultimately change her life.
As she embraces her undercover life as a nursing student Una toys with the idea that she just might be capable of having a future. However, Una's past isn't ready to let her go and she finds herself in a quandary of how to prevent all of her hard work from crashing down around her. 
Skenandore shines in this latest novel. It is truly evident that Skenandore is passionate about the subject of nursing. Her characters jump off the page and sit right there next to you while you flip the pages. 
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley and the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 
The Nurse’s Secret is a historical mystery with an intriguing premise. However, it combines two elements, that of having the fish-out-of-water nurse navigating Bellevue, while finding murders occurring in her midst that are reminiscent of her origins on the streets. Theoretically, this combination could work, but I found the execution here very lacking. 
My main investment was in unraveling the mystery. And to have it occur in the midst of the already-intense atmosphere of Bellevue, it’s easy to be sucked into that element of the story and see the killer brought to justice. And there’s a lot about being a nurse in the latter half of the 19th century that is well-captured, both in the context of the mystery and contributing to the atmosphere.
But I found myself feeling very mixed about Una. In theory, she’s interesting, because she’s a grifter who conned her way into the nursing institution as a cover, and I like that her background makes her suitable for handling the gritty nature of the work and the dark events that unfold. But I just never really connected with her, and I kwish there had been a way to emphasize the fear of exposure that wasn’t the threat of a literal murderer, as that overshadowed her character depth. 
 While this book didn’t fully work for me, there are strong points from an objective perspective. And I can see it working better for someone else who also enjoys historical mystery/suspense with multiple points of suspense.
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**Thank you to NetGalley, Amanda Skenandore and Kensington Publishing for allowing me this arc version in exchange for my honest review.**

I loved this book. I am always ready for a good nurse story and this one with the added historical facts, the mystery thrown in and a bit of romance took me all the way home!!
Set in New York in the 1880s Ms. Skenandore takes Una, a thief, living life one day at a time trying to just stay alive, finds she's been accused of murder. She now has to escape the 'coppers' watchful eyes, so she decides to apply for the Nursing program at Bellevue Hospital. Definitely not because she wants to do good and become a nurse but because she thinks no one will ever find her there. As time goes along and she's doing her work in the nursing program, a woman is found dead. Una senses something is a little off with the death. Shortly after that another death is very suspecting of foul play. Is Una simply being too suspicious because of her past or is there really something going on that needs deeper attention?
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Una Kelly is different than the other nurse trainees entering Bellevue’s nursing program. Unbeknownst to the school, Una is a thief, who believes the school is the perfect place to lay low. I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher through Netgalley. This is my honest and voluntarily given review. This book is not only a terrific story, but also a fascinating look at professional nursing in the late nineteenth century. There is mystery, suspense, friendship, and romance. This is a book that I will remember not only because of the story, but also the main character. I love seeing Una evolve through caring for patients, a friendship, and a romance.
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I really liked reading a historical fiction book about nurses that wasn’t set during a war. Una was a likable main character who overcame a lot during the story and showed a lot of growth. I love that the author is also a nurse.
Thank you to the publisher for my copy.
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I loved the prickly and intrepid Una and found the descriptions of a Gilded Age hospital and nursing school to be fascinating.  The mystery was fine, if  pedestrian.  Frankly, I think the book would have been stronger without it.   The nursing school part of the story could easily have stood alone.  I disliked the romance - partly because I’m just not much of a romance person and (mostly) because I found it unbelievable that a badass like Una would fall for a prisspot like Edwin!  

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC copy for my review.
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I have enjoyed all of Amanda Skenandore’s historical fiction and she keeps getting better! I love how her chosen time periods very widely and the lead characters are nuanced and capable. Descriptions of New York City in 1883 are vivid, never ponderous. Skenandore makes the city come alive with strong verbs, “street children still huddled over steam grates. Beggars rattled their tins. Gangs prowled the alleys.” She uses clever turns of phrases to set the reader in a bygone time. “The thick Irish brogue like that of her father had vanished from many voices like a wrinkle ironed out of a shirt.” 

Una Kelly grew up in the streets of New York City after her mother died in a fire and her drunken dad was lost in his own world. She is a strong protagonist; one you will root for. We follow her from days of stealing for Marm Blei to being accused of a crime to watching as she studies to become a nurse in the first nurse-training program in the country. We see her ‘rules for life’ forge her into a resilient woman with compassion. 

4.5 stars – because sometimes you just need a rags-to-riches love story with a strong female and a good story. Throw in a mystery, some clean romance, great pacing, and you have The Nurse’s Secret.

I listened to the audiobook as well read the ARC. The narrator has a strong voice which fit perfectly with the times. Characters were easy to understand, and the story moved quickly. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved so much about The Nurse's Secret. As a work of historical fiction, it was fascinating to learn about the first nurse training school at Bellevue Hospital, as well as get a glimpse of New York City during the complicated Gilded Age. The city felt as much a character as any people in the book. The human characters were wonderful too, though. Una's journey of growth and redemption were beautiful, as were the relationships she developed along the way, and the mysterious element kept the pages turning.
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