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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"I'm sure you manage things admirably." She'd find no complaints from him so long as there was strong coffee in the morning and plenty of patients to see. "Where will the doctor expect me to stay?"

She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I'm not sure yet. We've some empty rooms on his side of the house, though that's a grisly prospect as they are full of his specimens. The third floor is nicer, but I can't have you near my or Eleanor's rooms."

"Certainly not," he agreed quickly. The thought of bumping into the housekeeper in her dressing gown on the way to her bath produced an inward shudder. He smiled sheepishly. "I'm afraid I did not catch your name."

"Gracious. What am I thinking? I'm Mrs. Phipps, the housekeeper, and in spite of what you've seen, I'm generally used to commotion." Her eyes narrowed. "Though I hope you are less forgetful than Dr. Croft. One of him is enough. And I don't care for gentlemen who leave bits lying around."

"I spent years at medical school without a valet. I'm used to tidying up after myself," Daniel assured her.

She stared at him a moment, then broke into a laugh. "Lord love you, Doctor, I wasn't thinking about stockings or neckties. I meant bones and things. Just yesterday afternoon I found a handkerchief wrapped around a severed thumb. Dr. Croft had forgotten to put it away."

"How terrible," he mumbled. "I do my best to keep my patients all in one piece."

She gave an approving nod. "Well, that's something. This way, Doctor. I'm sure you'll want to get a look at the surgery." She led him up a half-dozen stairs. They were newer than the rest of the house, and opened into a black cave. "Just give me a moment with the window shades," she said.

He heard her fumbling with something, then he blinked, struck full in the face by a lance of sunlight.

"Let me help." Daniel crossed the room and reached for another cord. He pulled it tight, raising the shade as far as it would go and doubling the light in the glass-enclosed room. He twisted the cord around a cleat so the shade would stay up and stepped back.

The house may be shabby, he thought, but the surgery is incredible. The stone walls came only to waist height, with glass panes filling the remaining walls and the entire ceiling. They were covered now by a series of thick window shades, except for the two panels they had lifted, and the light from that segment alone filled the entire room.

"The shades are a little cumbersome," Mrs. Phipps said at his elbow.

"No, they're perfect," Daniel said. Dark and thick on the outside, they shielded the room from the sun's heat when lowered. The slate floor kept the room pleasantly cool. At night or on hot days, with the shades down, the white canvas lining would reflect and amplify any lamplight within.

Scrubbed tabletops shone whiter than the holystoned planks of a navy frigate, and gleaming basins sat upside down to dry in a neat row on the cupboards lining two of the walls. A tray of instruments waited under a layer of bleached linen toweling. Beneath the scent of lye, he detected the smell of blood, but faint enough he couldn't be certain. There was no sign of dust, let alone stains. Four tall mirrors in wooden frames stood along one of the empty walls, and a system of pulleys hung from the metal supports girding the roof—for lamps? Or applying traction? And there, next to the door—"

Why is there an easel?" Daniel asked.

Mrs. Phipps coughed. "Sometimes Dr. Croft has an artist come make drawings of different specimens."

"Of course." Daniel should have realized. Dr. Croft was known for the quality of the illustrations that so often accompanied his reports. "I look forward to meeting the fellow."

"We ought to see about getting you that sandwich," Mrs. Phipps said.

"Of course." He agreed out of politeness, telling himself he'd soon have a chance to look over this marvel of a surgery, inspect the contents of the many fitted drawers, and learn the workings of the pulleys on the ceiling. "This room is fitted up wonderfully. I'm surprised he doesn't offer demonstrations—"

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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