Reviled by her Irish community after being accused in the death of a child, Rachel Dunne flees to London, abandoning her gifts and calling as a healer. Thankfully, her English cousin Claire has secured her a temporary position in the home of James Edmunds, a widowed physician who has decided to leave his medical practice to become a gentleman farmer. Dr. Edmunds has no knowledge of Rachel's past and, hired to catalog the books in his library, Rachel vows to never pass herself off as a healer again.
Every time James loses a patient he is reminded of his biggest failure — the loss of his wife. Even when he knows he has done everything within his power to save a patient, the feeling cuts a deeper wound into his soul. A compassionate and gifted physician, James has lost heart in the practice of medicine, but his heart is strangely drawn to the young Irishwoman cataloging books in his library.
Rachel knows her position is temporary, but if she can manage to keep her past hidden long enough to secure a position as a teacher she'll be able to make a way for her family to join her in England, away from the scandal that weighs them down in Rachel's name. Of all the possible positions Claire could have found for her, being employed by a physician seems to be just another cruel joke God has played on her — especially when that physician is a handsome, compassionate gentleman for whom she has no business harboring romantic feelings.
When a spiteful member of the household staff discovers a letter with sketchy details about Rachel's trial in Ireland, both Rachel's job and the feelings growing between her and Dr. Edmunds are at risk. Can she keep the truth hidden? Or will her necessary deceptions cause everything around her to unravel?
As the threat of cholera begins to spread panic through London, both Rachel and James must decide if they can trust God enough with their secrets and their gifts to allow a deeper healing to take place within their hearts … and afford them a chance at love.
Hits & misses:
The story moves along at a fairly gentle pace among rather gentle people who don't get all that worked up about anything too quickly. Add in a spare few servants who seem to get worked up abouteverything, and you find that class distinction and bigotry are very clearly portrayed through the actions and dialogue of the characters. ReadingThe Irish Healer is rather a bit like watching Masterpiece Theatre or British-period cinema, in that the minor characters, mainly servants, seem to have a much wider range of emotion than the leads (whose inner struggles are kept staidly and appropriately hidden). I wouldn't be all that surprised if a Laura Linney sound-a-like voiced the book trailer.
Nancy Herriman does a fine job involving all senses in helping the reader to visualize each locale the characters visit. There are a few necessary patient-tending scenes that, while brief, are vivid enough in an olfactory way that they may not appeal to the more weak-stomached reader. Likewise, her characters are clearly drawn and their temperaments and dispositions remain constant throughout the story, even though their moments of spiritual revelation and resolution feel a tad contrived.
To read … or not?
Herriman's award-winning novel gives a vivid picture of 1830s England. The restraint with which Herriman writes only adds to the atmosphere, creating a lovely period tale of personal transformation and abiding love.
(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After)