Cover Image: The Invincible Miss Cust

The Invincible Miss Cust

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Member Reviews

I really liked the start of this book. Loved how she grew up and all the characters, I even liked her challenges in university and the crazy comments and beliefs about women. However by about halfway into the book it started to really drag. Found myself not willing to pick it up, and the book didn’t seem to improve for quite a while.
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Just  my sort of historical novel, well researched and based on a real life story. A fascinating, well  imagined tale about the first woman in Britain to study Veterinary Science. It was astonishing what women of this era , however well connected, had to go through to pursue any career. In fact  women got into medicine well before they were 'allowed' to become vets. Gives an interesting insight into Anglo Irish relations at the time too.
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The Invincible Miss Cust is historical fiction based on the life of Aleen Cust, the first female veterinary surgeon. 

The story takes us to England and Ireland during the late 1800s, when women were expected to remain submissive to men, marry, and make babies. Veterinary schools were closed to women because it was considered an unseemly and inappropriate career for a female.

I loved Aleen’s grit. She knew what she wanted from childhood, and nothing and no one was going to stand in her way.

The story takes us from her childhood through to adulthood, showing us the path she forged, the many pitfalls, and ultimately the triumphs.

The beginning dragged a bit, and I didn’t get the strong emotional connection I’d expected, but I did enjoy the story.
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Aleen Cust was a woman of resilience and determination. While the first women entered the medical field as physicians, she fought to find a college that would allow her to study veterinary medicine. A woman physician was deemed tolerable, but a woman vet was immoral. While the patriarchal society of her time was an obstacle, no one objected her plight more than her own family. 

Penny Haw’s historical fiction novel follows Cust’s journey to becoming Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon. While Haw has taken liberty with some details in Cust’s life, particularly the romance, it is otherwise well researched. Haw’s choice to write in first person allowed for a feel of authenticity to the novel. The characters and relationship with her friend, Dorothy, and the importance of Dorothy’s family were well developed. I appreciated that through Aleen, Haw reminded the reader that despite the patriarchal obstacles that she faced, there were men that helped motivate and lift Aleen to her dream. While I enjoyed reading how Aleen navigated the difficulties to becoming a veterinary surgeon, it was her passion towards the animals and her care of them that was my favorite. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I cannot get enough of reading the relatively unknown stories about the women that history has seemed to have forgotten. Often these stories involve war, and while that is important, its a nice change of pace to read about a trailblazer like Aleen Cust.
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I love books based on unknown women from history, and the soon-to-be-released novel, The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw, is biographical historical fiction at its finest. Set in mid-19th century Ireland, Scotland, and England, the story follows a real-life girl, Aleen Cust, who loves animals and is determined to become a veterinary surgeon, much to the disbelief of her family and society who don’t believe that women could (or should) be involved in such careers. As she grows into a strong woman, she doesn’t let anyone stand in her way from achieving her goals, even to the detriment of her personal life, becoming Britain and Ireland’s first female veterinary surgeon. 

The amount of people telling Aleen she shouldn’t pursue her dream is vast, but I loved the few who supported her no matter what. Even though her own family was cold and distant, she created family around her wherever she went, finding people who believed in her and her abilities.

The story really takes off once Aleen moves back to Ireland to serve as the assistant to a well-liked veterinarian who brings out a different side to her. I loved these chapters the most! Aleen volunteered to serve at the front in World War I, and now I want to find out even more details about her time there. It is an amazing story!

I recommend this book to anyone who loves animals and who loves books about strong women who defy societal expectations to follow their true calling. I am so glad the author brought Aleen’s story to life in the pages of this novel. How lucky we are to have such women on whose shoulders we now stand!
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The fascinating and well written novel sweeps from the 1890s through WWI and after to tell the story of Aleen Cust, who defied her aristocratic family to become the first female vet in the UK.  Aleen's love for animals started early, in Ireland but the death of her father changed everything, both good and bad.  Major Fitz Widdrington becomes her guardian and her promoter and his family- Lady Widdrington, Dorothy, and Bertie- become hers as well, especially when her own refuses to allow her to pursue her dreams.  She thinks she's found a way around them by become a nurse like Florence NIghtengale but she hates the hospital.  The untimely death of the only one of her brothers who understood her means a small inheritance and the chance to move to Edinburgh to study.  It's in Edinburgh where her life and the story takes off.  While stymied at every turn by the men who grant entry into the Veterinary Society, she achieves success with her classmates and professors.  A chance to work in Aberdeen and then more importantly, in Ireland, means the world to her. William, in Ireland, becomes more important than she anticipated. No spoilers from me but know that Aleen doesn't have an easy road.  I liked this not only for her but also for the animals (I know, I know) and the way Haw manages to put you right there in the barnyard beside the cows and sheep and so on.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  A great read for fans of historical fiction.
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What a good book! Aleen wants to be a veterinary surgeon however being a woman makes that harder to do. She’s a strong determined woman and  nothing stands in her way.
It amazes me of the mind set of the men and people for that time period. They were so narrow minded.
It’s a well written book, I was engrossed from page one. 
I do wish it had continued for a few more chapters.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
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What a remarkable story! The Invincible Miss Cust is a story of knowing your mind and heart from an early age and getting what you want no matter what. Aleen Cust knew at age six that she was to be a veterinary surgeon, and she spent her life achieving it. I loved this story of grit and determination, which I read in one extended sitting. I highly recommend it!
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A wonderful book loved getting to know the first woman veterinarian surgeon In Britain and Ireland.Her personally her determination was inspiring.Really enjoyed getting to know her life and the people who surrounded her.#netgalley #sourcebooks
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Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.  Aleen Cust is the precocious middle child of an aristocratic British family.  In her younger years, she lived in Ireland where she loved to be outside with the animals, riding horses and caring for her dogs.  But when her father dies unexpectedly, her family is forced to move back to England where her life changes drastically. Soon she is expected to be ladylike and to prepare for her presentation to the queen and entrance into society where her family expects her to find a suitable man to marry.  But Aleen has other plans.  She wants to become a veterinarian, even if none of the schools accept women and the profession won't give them their certification.  With the help of her guardian, Major Fitz, and the encouragement of her friend, Dorothy, who has similar views of the role and expectations of women, she is eventually able to go to school and train to be a vet.  It is an uphill battle that is met with strenuous resistance from her family who not only disown her but may have also actively sabotaged her efforts to be recognized by the professional organization of veterinarians.  Through it all, Aleen not only perseveres but excels.  As already noted, there is family drama and some romance but for the most part this is a story about Aleen and her animals.  The stories of Aleen working with the livestock on Irish farms definitely have a James Herriot feel to them and reminded me of the beloved books from the All Creatures Great and Small series.  Aleen was a remarkable woman who did not compromise on her desire to be a contributing member of society by caring for the creatures essential to society's survival.  I read this book in an afternoon and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves animals, strong female characters and family dramas.
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The Invincible Miss Cust reimagines the story of Aleen Cust, the first woman veterinary surgeon of Britain and Ireland.

19th century. Aleen is born in Ireland to an aristocratic English family. Growing up with brothers, she notices the experiences and opportunities that her brother have, but they are denied to her. From childhood, she loves horses, adventure, and competition. When she learns about such position as veterinary surgeon, it becomes her dream. But that is not to be, she is told. That would be a disgrace to family.

When her family returns to England, she gets embraced by family whose daughter shares the same passions as Aleen. The difference is her friend is allowed to go hunting and do the training as a nurse. Aleen’s eyes open to a different world where opportunities for women are possible.

The compromise is for Aleen to become a nurse, but she quickly discovers that nursing is not for her. She prefers countryside to stifling city hospital walls. And she resents the stiff relationship between doctors and nurses.

When she is about to give up her dream, an opportunity opens up.

In the first part of the story, we get to know Aleen and her family. What it takes for her to break through the walls of her family and to follow her dream. Once the dream is possible, she is against other walls. The man’s world, where she is not welcomed among her fellow students. Some accuse her of being a disgrace. Others ridicule her for being at the wrong place. But as it turns out, the biggest obstacles are still ahead of her.

The character of Aleen is interestingly explored. Her taking a professional position in man’s world isn’t an easy path. And there are other challenges. Coming from a privileged family, it most likely isn’t easy for her to transition to very simple lodgings with a privy in the backyard. The loneliness she feels, because her family ostracizes her. Accusing her of being selfish and causing them shame.

The story is vividly presented, with scenes of her childhood, school years, and professional life, while tending to animals and trying to save them. It is a story of a woman who breaks many conventions, not only with her professional life, but later also with her private life. It is a fascinating portrayal of one’s life who stands against challenges, but when the right people come along to give her a hand, she grabs the opportunity. Her family is against her, but there are some who support her and encourage her to fight for her dream.

With sophisticated prose and fascinating storytelling, the passion of one’s woman comes to life.

Review originally posted at
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I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book. 
Miss Cust is a woman ahead of her time. 
She knew what she wanted and went after it despite the difficulties in her path. 
I greatly admired her because she a spunk. 
Her childhood was interesting too.
I loved learning about the veterinary world and what goes with it. Just wow! A lot goes into this particular subject and the author has done her research well! 
I didn't like the predijuces from the men too well. The other thing I didn't care for was the slow start it had. I almost didn't finish but now I'm glad I did!
The thing I loved most was that it was told from Aleen's point of view.  
I somehow can connect to her better that way.
The second thing I loved most was the horses of course!
The Veterinary courses were so very interesting! I felt like I was in college myself!
5 stars for a job well done and for keeping my attention all the way through. 
I highly recommend!
My Thanks for a copy of this book.  I was NOT required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.
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Fantastic!. Allen Cust was the first woman vet in Great Britain during a time when women professionals were not widely accepted. She led the life she wanted despite her family and societies feelings.
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The Invincible Miss Cust tells the remarkable story of Britain and Ireland’s first female veterinary surgeon.

What I loved:
I loved learning about this veterinary world and following Miss Cust as she navigated the challenges and barriers of being the first woman in the field. It was interesting to see the connections drawn between Miss Cust and other real-life historical figures that she and her family were connected to. There’s a lot of historical context that comes through the story in terms of politics, gender roles, and general ways of living, which I really enjoyed. The story was both inspiring and entertaining.

What I didn’t love:
It was a bit of a slow start for me. I feel that some of the early parts of the book didn’t add much to the overall story and threw off the pace to a certain extent.

But overall, The Invincible Miss Cust is a unique and inspiring read.

Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the eARC! All opinions are my own.
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I adored The Invincible Miss Cust and would love to read books written by Penny Haw. I am giving this one five stars.
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This is an astonishing story of a brave young woman who defied her family and society during the Victorian era to become the first veterinary surgeon in England. I can’t remember the last time I read about a more determined, fearless woman, and the fact that this is based on Aleen Cust’s real-life story makes it even more special. I encourage everyone to read this inspirational book!
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A powerful book about the strength of women and their fight for equality and to be heard.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the early read.
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I read this book before it’s release thanks to NetGalley and I could not put it down! 

Aleen Cust wants more than is expected of her as an aristocratic lady. She wants to ride horses and care for animals and learn about her world. But as her family often reminds her, that’s not ladylike, and might reflect poorly on the Queen, her mother’s employer. 

But that doesn’t stop her. Instead she decides to do everything she can to become the first female veterinary surgeon. Can she make it happen even with her family sabotaging her, classmates ridiculing her, and the RCVS refusing to accredit her? 

This book releases November 2022 and I can’t wait for you to pick up a copy!
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Do you have any 'idea what it is to want to do something with your life and yet be forbidden simply because of your gender'? As the 19th Century draws to a close, so too have many women's expectations of only becoming a wife and mother.  Increasingly, women sought higher education and fought, not only for the right to vote, but demanded the door be opened to previously solely masculine careers. 

'The Invincible Miss Cust', follows the life of a girl who dared to dream of becoming a veterinary surgeon; unbeknownst to her, the first female vet in England.  As a girl, Aleen always felt a kinship with animals and a sensitivity to their distress; she simply wants to spend her life caring for them.  Aleen's mother and older brother are absolutely horrified at the notion.  They make it clear that they'll disown her if she brings such shame on the family.  Despite at times giving way to despair and hopelessness, nothing will diminish the single-minded goal of becoming an officially registered vet.

Life, love, and loss augment the details of Aleen's struggle to gain professional certification and fulfill her dream. Penny Haw delivers a historical engrossing account of a passionate, pioneer who, along with others during this time, helped pave the way towards equality between sexes.  Throughout, Haw daubs her descriptions of the surrounding landscape and conditions to paint a vibrant picture that not only draws the reader in but makes them believe in the story of Miss Cust.
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Aleen Cust is disowned by her family when she proceeds with following her dream to become a veterinarian surgeon. And further challenges by her male peers at the school. Once being at the top of her class and then the refusal to accept her by the veterinary board, she proceeds to gain the confidence of the community as she heals their animals.

I didn’t know much about the book when I requested from NetGalley. I think it very fitting to have recently finished James Herriot’s All Things Wise and Wonderful … and also after reading In The Shadow of A Queen by Heather B. Moore (pending release Oct 2022) which also includes (I believe the same ) Dorothy Grey as a supporting character.

I was not familiar with Penny Haw’s writing. I always love when NetGalley introduces me to new authors.  Thank you NetGalley!  For the opportunity to review the advance read copy (ARC) of the Invincible Miss Cust in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you to Penny Haw and Sourcebooks Landmark Paperback for approving my request for the ARC.
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