Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard
Belle Epoque Publishing (2017)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (4/19)
The Edwardian Era was a time when most women were more concerned about fashion than the right to vote. In “The Beauty Doctor” by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, the year is 1907, and there is a young woman named Abigail Platford who clearly is not like most women. Abigail grew up assisting her father who was a doctor. With no concern for wealth, he treated the poor. This was her goal as well. After his tragic death, a series of circumstances leads Abigail to working as an assistant for Dr. Franklin Rome, a surgeon who works with Transformative Surgery. He is known as a beauty doctor. Abigail has a lot of concerns about working for him, but she sees no other options if she wants to work in medicine. She also finds herself very attracted to him. As time passes, she soon discovers that things are not as they first appeared. Dr. Rome has lofty goals that involve doing business with some very wealthy, but shady characters. Abigail becomes torn because she sees that there is a serious lack of ethical behavior among Dr. Rome and the people with whom he is dealing. She begins an investigation on her own, and soon realizes the awful truth.
“The Beauty Doctor,” is a fantastic work of historical fiction. The author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard has done a great job of bringing the Edwardian Era to life. Her vivid descriptions made me feel like I was seeing the story rather than reading it. She also created an eccentric cast of characters, most of whom have very little redeeming value, which adds a great deal to the drama. In addition, to the people, she also does well with incorporating the events of the time into the story. Women were not expected to have a voice, nor were they expected to go to medical school. In addition to medical fraud and quackery, many medical schools also offered substandard education. There were also huge issues with medical ethics. Eugenics was a big topic at the time. The author did a great job of seamlessly weaving most of these issues into the storyline. Having taken a course in Bioethics in college, I found this aspect of the story to be fascinating and very real.
I totally enjoyed reading “The Beauty Doctor.” I found it extremely hard to put down and only did so when I had to. While there were times that the protagonist frustrated me with her naivety, I also found myself understanding how easy it would be for someone so young to get duped into believing the lies that she was told. I also enjoyed intensely disliking many of the other characters because it helped expand my range of emotions that I felt while reading. Having never thought about how cosmetic surgery came about, I was intrigued by the descriptions of the surgeries that were presented. I highly recommend “The Beauty Doctor” by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard. If I could have scored it higher than 5 stars, I would have.