The Surgeon's Daughter

A Novel

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Pub Date 10 May 2022 | Archive Date 15 May 2022
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, Sourcebooks Landmark


"[A] richly detailed, expertly paced saga of the only female student attending a prestigious medical school in Italy...a truly captivating heroine, for then and for now." —Sally Cabot Gunning, author of The Widow's War and Painting the Light

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl in His Shadow comes a riveting historical fiction novel about the women in medicine who changed the world forever.

Women's work is a matter of life and death.

Nora Beady, the only female student at a prestigious medical school in Bologna, is a rarity. In the 19th century women are expected to remain at home and raise children, so her unconventional, indelicate ambitions to become a licensed surgeon offend the men around her.

Everything changes when she allies herself with Magdalena Morenco, the sole female doctor on-staff. Together the two women develop new techniques to improve a groundbreaking surgery: the Cesarean section. It's a highly dangerous procedure and the research is grueling, but even worse is the vitriolic response from men. Most don't trust the findings of women, and many can choose to deny their wives medical care.

Already facing resistance on all sides, Nora is shaken when she meets a patient who will die without the surgery. If the procedure is successful, her work could change the world. But a failure could cost everything: precious lives, Nora's career, and the role women will be allowed to play in medicine.

Perfect for book clubs and for fans of Marie Benedict, Tracey Enerson Wood, and Sarah Penner comes a captivating celebration of women healthcare workers throughout history.

"[A] richly detailed, expertly paced saga of the only female student attending a prestigious medical school in Italy...a truly captivating heroine, for then and for now." —Sally Cabot Gunning, author...

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Featured Reviews

This was a really great read, especially if you are interested in medical history. The author has definitely done her homework her, as she describes both medical advances, surgical procedures, and the historical medical practices in that time period. The characters were both strong women passionate about medicine and helping other women. Their courage to press through the obvious lack of support from male colleagues, and the masculine disdain towards educated women during that time period is both accurate and infuriating. I really enjoyed this, and salute the women who came before us and persevered to become what they were meant to be: surgeons.

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I adored The Surgeon's Daughter by Audrey Blake. I will definitely will be looking for more by this author. Five stars

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My first five star review of the year! This book had all the things I love:

- Historical era
- women's rights/female empowerment
- great drama
- relatable main character(s) that I adore from the beginning

I truly loved this book. Just enough struggle and hardship to make it good without making it totally depressing. I knew what was going to happen in the end (no spoilers here) but that did not make it any less enjoyable. The medical terminology was "just enough" as were the descriptions of the surgeries. Any more detail and it would have been too gory for me.

I was thrilled to find out that this was a sequel of sorts. I will definitely be checking out the first book by these two authors now.

Highly recommend this one if you love historical novels with strong female protagonists!

Thank you to the publisher, the authors and to Net Galley for the ARC of this book.
(I am off to read The Girl in His Shadow immediately and regretting that I did not read it before this one)

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This is the second book featuring Nora Beady, who was trained for all intents and purposes as a physician back in England, but she’s can’t go to medical school there because she’s a woman. At the end of the first book, Nora was offered a place at the University of Bologna.

Now, Nora is finishing up her degree in Bologna and she meets Dr. Magdalena Morenco, one of the few female physicians there, and Nora learns about how to perform cesarean sections and these two end up working together to perfect the procedure. In the meantime, Dr. Daniel Gibson continues to face some backlash from colleagues over the events from the first book and he’s also dealing with a diphtheria outbreak. And Dr. Croft is still battling with his longtime nemesis.

This was an excellent follow up to The Girl in
His Shadow and I was happy to get more time with these characters. As someone who works in health care with newborns, I was completely interested in reading how Audrey Blake focused on the medical history of safely delivering a child and this book didn’t disappoint. Definitely go back and read the first book, while this can be a read as a stand-alone, I think you’d have much more appreciation for these characters. This isn’t. A light and fluffy historical fiction, it’s a little grittier because of the topics, however that was just fine with me, and I highly recommend this!

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Nora Beady is the only female student at a prestigious medical school in Bologna. In the 19th century women are expected to remain at home and raise children, so her unconventional ambition to become a licensed surgeon offend the men around her. Under constant scrutiny, Nora's successes are taken for granted; her mistakes used as proof that women aren't suited to the field. Then she allies herself with Magdalena Morenco, the sole female doctor on staff. Together the two women develop new techniques to improve a groundbreaking surgery: the Cesarean section. It's a highly dangerous procedure and the research is grueling, but even worse is the vitriolic response from men. Most don't trust the findings of women, and many can choose to deny their wives medical care. Already facing resistance on all sides, Nora is shaken when she meets a patient who will die without the surgery. If the procedure is successful, her work could change the world. But a failure could cost everything: including precious lives,

This is an excellent book on the role women played in medicine in the 19th century, especially those few that became doctors. It was obvious that the author did a lot of research into the procedures described, yet she did not get more gory than necessary in her descriptions which I appreciated. She showed a knowledge of the geographic area, and also showed how her characters grew and matured throughout the novel. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book.

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I was so thrilled to discover this book! After The Girl in His Shadow I wasn’t ready to let these characters go and I’m so thankful I didn’t have to!

Much like their first book, Audrey Blake takes us back into the world of 19th century medicine once again through the eyes and capable hands of Nora Beady and Dr. Daniel Gibson. I was sad to see the pair part ways at the end of book one and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel with them so far apart.. But I quickly became engrossed in their separate lives. Nora studying medicine at the prestigious University of Bologna and battling sexism and self doubt and Daniel battling a diphtheria outbreak and constant ridicule from his colleagues, back in London. I did however adore the little glimpses we got into their communication which made their longing for life to return to normal, with each other, feel more real.

The medical cases were fascinating, if not incredibly graphic and the relationships developed throughout kept the story moving beautifully. It’s a bit of a slog though and while that word often conjures negative feelings I’d say this was one journey that was made better for it. Much like book 1, The Surgeon’s Daughter is heavy in a lot of ways. But the writing is beautiful and the characters continue to jump from the page and warm your heart.

I still don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye to Nora, Daniel, Dr. Croft or Mrs. Phipps but I am certainly glad to have had more time with them all!

Thank you to Netgalley and Casablanca Landmark for a copy in exchange of an honest review!

Trigger warnings

Graphic descriptions of traumatic births, deaths and various other medical issues involving both adults and children can be found throughout.
Choking, stillbirths, death of children

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A really special book about a young Englishwoman who must seek a medical education in 1840s Italy because it's not available to her at home. She encounters one obstacle after the other, but perseveres. While this alone would make a good novel, there's much more to this story. Highly recommended!

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I loved this book~ I was easily drawn into the world the author(s) built. This is what you want in an historical fiction book - a great story. You will find yourself drawn into the world of the late Victorian era in London, and into the world of the oldest university in Europe, Bologna in Italy.. There's fabulous character development and dialogue, descriptions of both the times, and the landscape and interior settings of the places the characters inhabit. I learned so much about the limitations placed on women for wanting to become doctors and even to complete medical training. This is the recurring theme, the role of women in a world where men did their best to keep them out of higher education, and out of professions of importance and respect. It is a world of friendships, love and above all, family. I was not aware that this was the second book following these characters, and I will be seeking out the first book. AND please, give us more of this story.

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by Audrey Blake
While this book is fiction, the history about the topics, people and places was utilized throughout resulting in a richer reading experience. Nora’s goal is to become a licensed surgeon. But this is the 1850s and women were to be wives and mothers. Period. Nora was “adopted” by Horace Croft, one of the finest surgeons in England. He has taught her since she came to live with him. Hands-on. Training by doing. She is quite ready for medical school.

BUT, knowing she would never be accepted into any medical school in England, Dr. Croft sends her to the University of Bologna’s medical school, where a woman is on staff. But Nora is a rarity, she is the only female. She is not accepted by her teachers or fellow students.

Any mistake, perceived or real, is proof women should not be studying medicine. Nora’s successes were ignored. But she did have one distinct advantage, she was extremely knowledgeable about administering ether. Many doctors did not accept ether; knowing how to administer it was key.

The female doctor on the staff had just returned — Magdalena Morenco who has performed a Cesarean (extremely rare) while away. A woman appears at the hospital who has been in labor for an exceedingly long time. Magdalena orders Nora to administer ether and assist in a Cesarean. And that is the beginning of Nora’s belief in herself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This is only a small part of this book. There is so much more. Dr. Croft’s battles with an envious and far less learned doctor. Daniel, Nora’s almost-finance, who works with Dr. Croft. How a diphtheria epidemic is handled. Midwives knew so much about birth, but their knowledge was ignored by the medical profession.

You will be reminded how little the medical world then knew about germs. Instruments were “wiped off” and put away for next use. No wonder so many died of sepsis. How hospitals turned away patients if they could not pay, even when the doctors knew it meant death.

I discovered in “A Conversation with the Authors” at the end of the story, a previous book, The Girl in His Shadow, covers the period with Dr. Croft, Nora and Daniel before Nora goes to Bologna.

Be sure to read the “Historical Notes” at the end of the book as well as the “A Conversation with the Authors” for facts about this era in women in medicine. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and the oldest university in continuous operation in the world. The first Cesarean where both mother and baby survived was performed by a British person was done by an English woman posing as a man.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction that is steeped in fact. The medical procedures described in The Surgeon’s Daughter were pulled from actual cases written in that period.

I received a complimentary e-ARC* copy of The Surgeon’s Daughter from the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, via NetGalley. A positive review was not required; the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cover rating: Good but does not convey anything medical. The silhouette has the woman in a field. The story takes place in towns, not in the country.
Series & number: (Unknown when review published) #2.
Pages: Unknown, estimate over 300.
Publish date: May 10, 2022.

#TheSurgeonsDaughter #AudreyBlake #NetGalley
e-ARC* — electronic Advanced Reader Copy.

Will post to my Goodreads account immediately.
Blog Link:
On Dec 8th, the transfer of my domain should complete. The link will then be
Link to review will be

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I devoured this book in a matter of days! I have been waiting and waiting for the sequel and this book did NOT disappoint! I had so many emotions reading this book, I cried when you know who died. I got really angry at the Me Too story. (Disgusting that this has been happening for hundreds of years and it's STILL going on) And then I cried happy tears at the end! Oh how I hope we haven't said goodbye to these Drs. I want another book in this series!

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American, Regina Sirois and Canadian, Jaima Fixsen, the writing duo with the nom de plume, Audrey Blake, have done it again!

In this sequel, they’ve taken us to 43 Great Queen Street, London and allowed us to watch Daniel and Dr. Horace Croft in action. We are able step to the operating table as they diagnose erysipelas, tetanus and diphtheria (child strangler) and operate on femoral hernia, bladder stones, and strangulated hernia.

They’ve also taken us to medical school in the late 1800s in Italy. The catalyst for this move begins with the challenges in the surgeon’s guild when it was discovered that Nora Beady had been illegally trained by her guardian, Dr Croft, and was (gasp!) assisting in operations. Thankful for connections, Nora is recruited by Dr. Salvio Perra, a teacher at the University of Bologna, and offered a place in the prestigious Italian medical school. Although women are accepted into this program, she still faces oppression. She blossoms under the only female doctor on staff, Dr. Magdalena Morenco, and works with her to improve Cesarean section operations.

I was shocked at the pressure put on Nora, characteristic of what female doctors of the time faced. If she actually was allowed a place at the operating table (and not fetching pillows) and it was successful, it was never talked about. If she failed at the operating table, it was proof for the males that she (women) shouldn’t be there. Women have come a long way and, yes, there are still miles to go. It left me appreciative of my university degree and respect received in my career as well as thankful for parents who raised me to be a strong woman. A STEM teacher, I find myself making a point to encourage female students with promise to pursue a career in the field. This took me back to Nora and although she didn’t have a mother as she grew up, she had many ‘mothers’ in her life; those who stepped up with guidance and love. We have a responsibility after reading this book - encourage and foster a love of learning, a sense of determination and appreciate the power of passing the torch to others.

This riveting historical novel brings to light the reality of a doctor’s life in the late 1800s:
“A doctor’s life, it often seemed, was a series of gambles mixed alternately with unsolvable and unnecessary problems.”

I’m confident Miss Beady’s journey is not over yet and I (fingers crossed) anticipate another 5-star installment in her road to a successful surgeon.

I was gifted this advance copy by Audrey Blake, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.

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historical-fiction, historical-places-events, historical-research, historical-setting, history-and-culture, medical-doctor, education, internship, women-in-science, medical-treatment, 19th-century*****

This book is a fictionalized and personalized account of a female medical student in the nineteenth century. Even as she is ridiculed and bullied at every turn, she demonstrates that she can make a big difference in the care and treatment of patients. Having been raised by a noted surgeon after her parents died in an epidemic, she has a much greater understanding of the field than her fellow students. She also shares a love with another medical student who has returned to London while she must continue on in Italy. The descriptions of conditions and treatments of the day are spot on but may not be comfortably appreciated by non-medical readers. Excellent read.
I requested and received a free e-book copy from Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley. Thank you!

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What a fantastic continuation of this (hopefully) series. I absolutely love the characters - they have become book family to me! And Nora is smart, determined and strong - she is very quickly becoming one of my favorite book heroines. The writing is beautiful and flows so well, and the descriptions of people, places and things in the book are detailed enough to transport the reader into the story, but succinct enough to keep the pacing at an enjoyable speed. Woven throughout the novel are themes of grief, love, societal expectations, regret and hope. There are also moments of fun and humor. Horace Croft will forever be in my heart. I highly recommend this novel, but think that you should definitely read the first book, A Girl In His Shadow, first.

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The Surgeon's Daughter has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2022, and I am thrilled to say that it absolutely lived up to expectations. Last year, I completely fell in love with The Girl in His Shadow and I wasn't ready to part ways with these characters! The Surgeon's Daughter picked up where we left off and gave me all the same feelings -- a courageous woman who is ready to fight for her right to practice medicine, an incredible historical setting, drama that kept me flipping pages, and medical stories that are gritty but authentic.

The Surgeon's Daughter is beautifully written and had me fully invested in the characters. I can only imagine how tricky it is to write a long-distance love story but it worked! (And you know a book is well-written when you want to jump into the pages and punch the villain in the nose... Vickery! Gah.) While this book can be read as a standalone, I would definitely recommend going back and grabbing a copy of The Girl in His Shadow first!

Full of heart and perseverance, courage and determination, I wholeheartedly recommend The Surgeon's Daughter to historical fiction fans. Another gorgeous novel by Audrey Blake!

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This book was sent to me electronically for review by Netgalley. This is an amazing book with details that are somewhat unbelievable. I felt as if I were in the setting...with the characters. What would happen next? Historical writing at its best. I look forward to more books by this author.

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I do not have enough praises for this book! The characters have strong backbones making the story strong and entirely believable. In my opinion the authors have done an excellent job. Their research task must have been mammoth but the pathos, the angst, the maddening frustrations, and deeply demeaning-of-women essence of the times as portrayed in this historical fiction oozes out of the pages' pores and about knocks you over. Like, "A female doctor? NOT on my watch!"

This was the general male reaction just as much as a female one. Female doctors, female lawyers or female anything else should not be, except for ornamental housewives and/or mothers, being the acceptable vocation for any intelligent woman back in the day of the mid-to-late 1800's and early 1900's when these struggles came more to the fore.

The main protagonist Nora, overcame these great odds with the help of Horace, Daniel, Harry, Pozzi, Perra and the invincible M. Marenco and a handful of other cheerleaders such as Mrs. Phipps and Mrs. Crawford. Together, this troop pulled together to overcome the tsunamis of prejudices against women and even against innovative male doctors.

Yes, there is an element of romance that threads its way throughout the narrative. However, it does not supercede the main issues being addressed such as the woman being in formerly male-only positions, performing caesareans, trying to help diphtheria sufferers and so on. Seeing how iron sharpens iron between the characters is refreshing, in how they support and lift each other up for their good and to goad each other to do their diligent best and succeed with excellence.

The author of this book is labeled as Audrey Blake, yet this superb tale is the concoction and collaboration of two women in cohoots. I hope they will co-author more historical novels to blow us readers out of our complacent chairs. Women these days have much to be thankful for and it is well and good to have such valiant pioneers of the past who endured so much, documented in such memorable fashion and to help us realize what victories have been achieved, in great part, because of the courageous women of the past who stood resolute. The Surgeon's Daughter is just such a monument. Well done, Audrey Blake!

Since this story has some grit to it, there are some discussion questions to think through at story's end. There's a spiel about the research material involved and referenced, along with the regular addenda of acknowledgements and about the authors sections. I hope any future readers will be as enthralled with this story as I have been.

~Eunice C., Reviewer/Blogger~

February 2022

Disclaimer: This is my honest opinion based on the complimentary review copy sent by NetGalley and the publisher.

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Audrey Blake steps back into the 19th century medical world with Nora Beady and Dr. Daniel Gibson.
Being a woman in the 1840’s has certain expectations; wife, mother and homemaker. Nora wants more, to become a surgeon.
Traveling from England to Italy to study medicine, she is the only female student and not accepted by her male classmates. Her ambitions and actions are frequently questioned and scrutinized.
When she meets Dr. Magdalena Morenco, she has found an ally. On her journey, Nora faces sexism, challenging medical cases and moments of facing her own self doubt. With Dr. Morenco she will witness groundbreaking steps in anesthesia, surgical techniques; the risky c-section and the development and entry of women
practicing medicine.
Alternating with the story of her partner Dr. Gibson who remained in England, their lives are surrounded by their patients, the cases they handle and the experiences that they share.
Identifiable characters steeped in gripping detail Audrey Blake knows how to bring her readers the best of historical fiction. Much enjoyed and highly recommended.
Thanks to the author, NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC to review!
Rating (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being excellent)
Quality of writing: 5
Pace: 3
Plot development: 4
Characters: 4
Enjoyability: 4
Ease of Reading: 5

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

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