The Beauty Doctor by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard


The year is 1907. Women still wear their hair over layers of padding, they wear corsets and covers, which require a maid to help with dressing, they have no recourse when it comes to homeliness or when a small facial defect assumes huge proportions in a young woman’s mind. Make-up is minimal or non-existent in most homes. This is a prime time for the Beauty Doctor to move into your neighborhood.

Abigail Platford is about to flee the home of her soon-to-be in-laws and their son, her fiancé, leaving them far behind. These very wealthy people are smothering Abigail with their disapproval of both her and the upcoming marriage between her and their son. Arthur Hennessy isn’t truly interested in Abigail and she isn’t in him either. This is an easy way for Abigail to regain a home that was lost and for Arthur to cover his interest in a young man. The night before she is leaving, she meets Dr. Franklin Rome, a very handsome man, who causes a hot flush to creep over her face, as they introduce themselves to each other.

Abigail’s father had been a doctor and had encouraged her dream of one day becoming one, as well. Now, without the support of her father, she knows it is only a dream, but she does have a good start in the medical field, having worked with him. She must find employment immediately, if she is to survive. She thinks of Dr. Rome and, knowing where his current patient resides, she chooses to wait outside for him in the hope of him employing her.

It takes a little time for the doctor to decide he has just the job for her. He explains to her that he is a ‘Beauty Doctor’. He is the one who fixes a bump on a woman’s nose, injects her wrinkled skin with paraffin, and heals lesions on her face. He needs Abigail to attend parties or women’s gatherings, where she can basically advertise for him. Abigail, herself a beautiful woman, is unsure of the honesty of this ploy, but involves herself deeper and deeper in Dr. Rome’s medical practice.

As I read this book, I wondered if Dr. Rome is for real. He’s very good at his job, but soon he shows himself to be wholly driven by money. He does work hard to improve his skill, but that involves kidnapping people off the street. Abigail is so enthralled by him that she talks herself into accepting anything. Even a very questionable business venture involving other doctors.

I didn’t find Dr. Rome to be an empathetic character. In fact, I pretty much disliked him from the beginning. He’s a philanderer on a grand scale and Abigail is overly innocent when he starts to be interested in her. Abigail hasn’t any discernment; she hopes this is true love.

There were several characters you are meant to dislike. In fact, it seemed like almost everyone lacked any redeeming qualities. The book is well written without any shortcuts in the storyline. I do think that I should have liked Abigail more, but her turning a blind eye to the doctor put me off. Most readers will find this to be a very good story. It’s highly involved in right-and-wrong, good vs. evil.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – I call this ‘historical’. It is not a romance in my opinion, and the reading age would be late teen and adult.
  • Level of sexuality – There was one scene that was a bit graphic. Other than that, it was tame.
  • Is there graphic language? Not a lot.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? No.
  • Level of character development – I was most interested in Abigail, as she is the main character. I was sorry for her predicament; it was go along or be back on the streets. However, I really didn’t think much of her. She gained strength as time went on. I just expected more from her.

I give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree by Michael A. McLellan


This turned out to be a fascinating story. It starts with Henry and Eliza, newly freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War. The beginning of their freedom has a very big downside in that they have no idea how to manage it. They were released like little puppies with no idea how to save themselves. Being slaves, they were used to hardship and injustice, and once they are free they have to rely on gossip and a lot of hope in their desire to acquire land in the northern U.S. They have heard there are places they can live and work without the terror of the South.

Several times I closed this book and decided I couldn’t review it. The hatred in people’s hearts is easily admitted, but this story lays it bare. Post-war South was a seething pool of hatred. Henry and Eliza don’t get far before they are captured, even though they carry their papers of freedom. Henry is hung and Eliza is dragged away by a group of ragged men with evil in their hearts. Luck or not, Henry’s hanging rope is rotted through and he falls to the ground, where he abandons Eliza to escape his captors.

Some years later, Henry is working for the military as a scout in Indian territory. Here he meets up with people who have grown tired of prejudice and the soulless men who look only to themselves. They have grown tired of men who talk falsely to the Indians and then use their arrogance to become rich while others starve, while they ferment war with the Indians and send soldiers to kill their babies. Because of this, Henry finds people who at least are interested in calling him by name and, at the same time of crisis, support his desire to do something for the Indians that he has come to care so much for.

John and Clara are interesting characters. John is a military man forced to serve in Indian country, because he loves Clara. Her father, being a controlling and selfish man, thinks he can manipulate two people who are in love. As John is forced to go on a foray to an undefended Indian village where soldiers kill every woman, child, and man, he is sickened and actually walks away from the military he though he would spend his life serving. Clara also comes to her own recognition that there have been people in her life that she has loved, but refrained from admitting to herself or them for fear of social ostracism.

Once the people in this story are forced into company with each other, they realize people are similar no matter who or what they are. They all had many of the same worries and the same desires. They could not like each other as a whole population, but on a face-to-face basis they found how to accept, care, and love each other.

I highly recommend this book. It is an eye-opener into the American past and a reminder of what we should hope for today. Without saying, this book points out the fact that we have a long way to go.

The rating:

  • Genre & general reading age – Historical for adults and older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – Very low-key.
  • Is there graphic language – Quite a bit.
  • Did I cry? No, but I was saddened at times.
  • Did I laugh? No.
  • Is this part of a series? This is a standalone.
  • Level of character development – This book is so well-done, I never had a sense of the characters lacking.

I am very happy to give Mr. McLellan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon