The Nurse's Secret

A Thrilling Historical Novel of the Dark Side of Gilded Age New York City

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Pub Date 28 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 05 Jul 2022

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The unflinching, spellbinding new book from the acclaimed author of The Second Life of Mirielle West. Based on the little-known story of America’s first nursing school, a young female grifter in 1880s New York evades the police by conning her way into Bellevue Hospital’s training school for nurses, while a spate of murders continues to follow her as she tries to leave the gritty streets of the city behind…

“A spellbinding story, a vividly drawn setting, and characters that leap off the pages. This is historical fiction at its finest!” – Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of The Codebreaker’s Secret

BookBub’s Best Historical Fiction of Summer

Based on Florence Nightingale’s nursing principles, Bellevue is the first school of its kind in the country. Where once nurses were assumed to be ignorant and unskilled, Bellevue prizes discipline, intellect, and moral character, and only young women of good breeding need apply. At first, Una balks at her prim classmates and the doctors’ endless commands. Yet life on the streets has prepared her for the horrors of injury and disease found on the wards, and she slowly gains friendship and self-respect. 

Just as she finds her footing, Una’s suspicions about a patient’s death put her at risk of exposure, and will force her to choose between her instinct for self-preservation, and exposing her identity in order to save others.

Amanda Skenandore brings her medical expertise to a page-turning story that explores the evolution of modern nursing—including the grisly realities of nineteenth-century medicine—as seen through the eyes of an intriguing and dynamic heroine.


“In this superior historical, the author’s diligent research, as well as her empathetic depiction of those subjected to forced medical isolation, make this a winner.” —Publishers Weekly
The unflinching, spellbinding new book from the acclaimed author of The Second Life of Mirielle West. Based on the little-known story of America’s first nursing school, a young female grifter in...

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ISBN 9781496726537
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Featured Reviews

I loved this book. Plain and simple. I enjoyed reading every page, and I'm disappointed it's over.

The murder mystery was interesting and provided a great deal of suspense. I didn't figure out who the killer was until he/she was revealed.

One of Skenandore's strengths as a writer is how she creates her characters. She always creates characters you just can't help but root for, and her characters are always "people" I'd like to know in real life. I really enjoyed Una from the very beginning. She was handed a difficult set of circumstances in life, and she found a way to triumph in the end. I adored Dru. I was pulling for her and Una the entire story and so much wanted things to end well for both of them.

The period details were fascinating and well-researched. As someone who works in healthcare today (not a nurse, though), it was so interesting to see how things were done long ago, what has changed and what hasn't. And, truly, Skenandore's being a nurse adds to the story as it's clear it was written by someone who "gets it" - all the emotions of caring for patients, the successes, the failures, the drive to keep going in spite of what's going on around you. One of the characters said nursing requires "an iron constitution and a gentle soul," and I couldn't agree more.

And, though I was disappointed my time with Una and Dru (I was a fan of Edwin, too) was over, I love how the story ended.

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In The Nurse’s Secret we are treated to a multi-layered, fascinating historical fiction novel. The main character is Una—a grifter, a pickpocket, who ekes out a hardscrabble life for herself on the mean streets on New York City. Desperate, wanted for murder, she lies her way through an interview and enters a nurse training program at Bellevue Hospital. Una is street smart, resilient and savvy, and incorporates the skills she used to survive on the streets to get through the rigorous program. There is also a murder mystery woven into this mesmerizing story, adding danger and intrigue in unexpected ways.

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From start to finish, "The Nurse's Secret" is an engrossing read. It's not one you should inhale in one day, as you won't truly appreciate it. Read over the course of a few days, you get a deeper connection to the story and it's main character Una Kelly.
Not only does the book provide you a window into the less glamorous side of the Gilded Age, it also provides a history on the creation of the nurse training program at Bellevue Hospital, as well as an interesting mystery to unravel. No spoilers from me. I'll just say that this was a great book. I look forward to the author's next work.
Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for this ARC, which I voluntarily read and reviewed.

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