Publishing Date: January 18, 2022
Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.
Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.
When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.
Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then.
But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.
This book had a fairly unique premise, and a cover that matched. In some ways it reminded me of the Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, with the female lead whose passion in life is anatomy, surgery, being a doctor, etc. Where that book leaned toward humor and madcap adventure, this one leaned hard into the gothic and macabre.
There’s a lot of blood, a lot of cutting up bodies complete with odors and squelching of organs and… well. You can probably imagine. There’s also many, many decaying corpses — and an ill-advised kiss inside a grave, complete with maggots. shudders
while the cover is clever and very appropriate for the title, the subtitle “A Love Story” felt misleading. The romance is actually minimal here – at 40% Hazel and Jack had hardly met and were still separated by plot.
This book was also a bit uneven overall. There were definitely passages that were quite beautifully written, and chapters that had me glued to the page. While Hazel’s ambition was relatable, it felt like that was all there was to her character. Jack felt unfinished, and their love story went from 0 to 60 in seconds. But in addition to the minimal and uneven romance, the sinister villains never faced any consequences. The focus of Hazel’s life for most of the book is forgotten toward the end. And the end itself is rather abrupt. While in some ways I like what Dana Schwartz is trying to do with that ending, I definitely felt unsatisfied overall.
I would probably recommend it to fans of Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, especially those who don’t mind a little — ok a lot — of blood and gore. Not to those with weak stomachs, though.
I thought the audiobook narrator did a decent job, though it was sometimes difficult to tell which character was speaking. Her voice was pleasant to listen to and overall it was an enjoyable listen, though I did end up switching back to the e-book to read a fair bit of it.
*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and Macmillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audiobook for review.