Excerpt from The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Girl in His Shadow

by Audrey Blake

The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake X
The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake
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    May 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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"This man says he was hired by the doctor to be an under surgeon. Here!"

"Never!" Mrs. Phipps puffed, squaring her tiny shoulders. She was barely the height of a road pony and spare as the poles they tied them to, but the tall man swallowed uncomfortably under her scrutiny. "Shall we ever learn not to be shocked?" she asked, casting her eyes to the ceiling.

"Well, I freely admit that I am." Nora folded her arms and planted herself in front of the man to halt further trespassing. "Dr. Croft can't have hired you. Not without consulting me—the rest of the household, I mean. It's impossible. In the meantime…"

"In the meantime, perhaps someone could take my coat? It's unnaturally warm today." He set down both his bags and went to work unbuttoning his greatcoat.

Nora started to argue, but Mrs. Phipps gave a stern look. "I'm sure Dr. Croft will explain," she whispered to Nora. "What did you say your name was, Mr…?"

"Dr. Gibson. Daniel Gibson." He tipped his head. "Thank you for being so accommodating," he said.

Mrs. Phipps returned his smile and offered, "I'll have Cook make up a sandwich since you've come all this way."

"That would be lovely. Perhaps after I've seen the clinic."

"Certainly," Mrs. Phipps said.

She led him down the hall, leaving Nora abandoned with his luggage in the entryway. That wayward curl, sensing Nora's losing streak, sprang free and landed in the middle of her forehead. Pushing it away, she hastened after them.

She rounded the corner and nearly collided with the man. He'd stopped to frown at a particularly overwrought painting of a storm-tossed ship, unfortunately hanging askew. He reached out and righted it, glancing at her.

Nora suppressed a grunt, painfully aware of the worn hallway carpet, her serviceable dress, the clash of shabby grandeur and utility in the fixtures. Gibson (she wouldn't think of him as doctor until he proved his skill) didn't belong here. His impeccable demeanor and Mayfair manners were as abrasive to Nora as grit on the tongue. Maybe if he got an honest look at the house he'd decide not to stay. Nora quickened her steps, keeping pace with him as he hurried after Mrs. Phipps to the clinic.

~

This was deuced awkward. Daniel frowned, cursing Croft's absentmindedness. Perhaps coming here was a mistake. His family certainly thought so, but he'd insisted. He was lucky, he told them, to have this chance to study with a surgeon as respected as Dr. Croft.

Of course, none of them—Father, Mother, Lillian, Mae—understood why he wanted to study surgery at all. He'd tried to explain: surgery was the vanguard of scientific discovery, a challenge, a test of his mettle, a set of skills that saved lives. Mother had softened at the idea of fame and success, but this contretemps over his arrival made Daniel doubt the wisdom of his choice. Surgery? Why indeed.

The housekeeper looked like a true martinet, pacing ahead of him, her skirts swishing with almost mathematical precision. As for the other one… She was peevish, plaintive, and clearly ill-suited for the role of surgeon's wife. No wonder Croft never mentioned her. If he dealt with this at home, perhaps it explained his distracted muttering and long hours at the dissection table. A young wife was a fine catch for a grizzled, middle-aged man, but Croft was paying dearly for this one.

At least you needn't trouble about her. Enduring some female ill-temper—and eccentricity, Daniel thought, spying a sheaf of notes weighed down with an enormous skull—was a small price. Horace Croft was a prize surgeon. His lectures at St. Bartholomew's Hospital were always impossibly crowded, and he hadn't taken an assistant in his private clinic for years. Plenty of men envied Daniel this position.

He would simply have to be patient with Croft's distracted ways and try to nourish a more favorable impression with the women of the house. It wasn't their fault they didn't know to expect him. "I'm sorry my arrival has caused so much inconvenience. A sudden houseguest is quite the surprise."

Excerpted from The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake. Copyright © 2021 by Audrey Blake. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks Landmark. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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