#bookreview The Beauty Doctor. Elizabeth Hutchinson Bernard @EHBernardAuthor

“Perhaps you’ve never thought of it this way, but beauty is power,” Dr. Rome said, with the calm certainty of a man who knows he speaks the truth. “And with enough power, Miss Platford, one can achieve anything.”

In the spring of 1907, Abigail Platford finds herself unexpectedly adrift in New York City. Penniless and full of self-doubt, she has abandoned her dream of someday attending medical school and becoming a doctor like her late father. Instead, she takes a minor position in the office of Dr. Franklin Rome, hoping at least to maintain contact with the world of medicine that fascinates her. She soon learns that the handsome and sophisticated Dr. Rome is one of a rare new breed of so-called beauty doctors who chisel noses, pin back ears, trim eyelids and inject wrinkles with paraffin. At first skeptical, she begins to open her mind, and then her heart, to Dr. Rome. But when his proposed partnership with a proponent of the early twentieth century eugenics movement raises troubling questions, Abigail becomes ensnared in a web of treachery that challenges her most cherished beliefs about a doctor’s sacred duty and threatens to destroy all she loves. A suspenseful work of historical fiction grounded in the social and moral issues of the Edwardian era in America. (This book is one of six finalists in the category of Published Fiction, 2017 Arizona Literary Contest.) 

Amazon // iBooks // Kobo // BN 

About the Author

Elizabeth’s first love was music. As a vocalist, flutist and songwriter, she toured for nearly a decade. Her musical compositions range from rock to pop to smooth jazz and New Age.

A summa cum laude Communications graduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), Elizabeth eventually traded her microphone for a pen. She settled in California, promoting international expositions for the music trade (Director of Public Relations, NAMM).  In 1997, she moved to New York City where she was the Communications Director for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.  She was instrumental in founding the internationally subscribed Aesthetic Surgery Journal and served as its Executive Editor. Later, she was a primary consultant to the National Cosmetic Network, in partnership with the plastic surgery program of Johns Hopkins University, and an editorial consultant for the book Be Your Best: A Comprehensive Guide to Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Her in-depth knowledge of plastic surgery lends a unique perspective to her historical novel, The Beauty Doctor, while music takes center stage in her upcoming book, Temptation Rag. Both stories are set in turn-of-the-century New York City.

About her novel, The Beauty Doctor, Elizabeth says, “I have always been fascinated by the early days of cosmetic surgery and have been aware that many people don’t realize how far back it goes—even further, actually, than the time of my novel. But I thought the Edwardian era would be a great period in which to explore the deeper meanings of beauty, power and success—especially because that was when many women began to think of such choices as rightfully theirs. My heroine, Abigail Platford, first has to overcome grief and self-doubt before she can confront forces within society seeking to define beauty and success only as they see it. Her journey is a discovery of hope, compassion and self-determination.”

Elizabeth currently lives in Arizona with her husband and their black Lab, Pearly Mae. 

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My Review 

Abigail’s engagement reception is here, but the fact that her fiancée Arthur doesn’t seem so keen, indicated in line, “there was a young man standing there, rather handsome in a delicate sort of way, with a look of distress about him that mirrored Arthur’s distracted air,” means the marriage is soon called off, and by Abigail who was reluctant to join Arthur’s rich family, and have the role of a wife, so it would have been a marriage of convenience. She met at this reception a man with an acrid scent, who will soon set Abigail on a new path, and employment, as, with her engagement off, Abigail is now without a home, and destitute.

The man is Doctor Franklin Rome, and what follows is a slow unfolding story of deception, intrigue, and mystery. The reveal of Abigail’s background, why she is so alone in the world, and her father, her biggest influence, and the tragedy that occurred plays into the text. 

Abigail is shocked to find it is not medicine that Rome is a Doctor in, but beauty surgery, or what we now call cosmetic, or plastic, surgery. She agrees to become his assistant.

There seems to be two stories here, one is the very infancy of Rome’s beauty surgery business, and the astute observations between the lofty heights of the rich, where the money is, and the poor, who are used as guinea pigs to practise the surgery on. Abigail wishes she can help the poverty stricken children, and is a caring person, who does grow as a character, and becomes more confident with her decisions. Rome does not so much undergo transformation, he is a baddie through and through. You can see right through him. 

From us finding out the methods that are used to get bumps out of noses, and remove wrinkles, Rome becomes ambitious, as he partners with a man willing to provide the ideas, the chutzpah

and to draw in investors interested in funding a beauty surgery, while the ultimate prize, which will elicit much attention, and therefore business, the operation of smoothing the bumps on the noses of conjoined twins. This could be a risky procedure, and the twins guardian is against it, but duped into parting with them, it is only Abigail who can step in and stop the twins becoming fodder for the unscrupulous surgeon Rome, and his business partner. 

The Beauty Doctor questions what is beauty, what are the benefits of surgery? And also the roles of women at that time – the ‘new woman’ who dresses like a man, and has short hair, and the women, like Abigail, who find themselves unable to have a high position in medicine. Simply because they are a woman. 

I was not at all surprised one of the author’s favourite author’s is Sarah Walters, as their styles are quite similar. This is a solid debut. I enjoyed The Beauty Doctor even more reading it a second time, and it’s an excellent fictional account of cosmetic surgery, that continues to be debated today, and was even more of a novelty in the early 1900’s, that you won’t often find written about, with such great accuracy as well. It also talks about the woman’s role in society, and that’s a relevant subject too. There can be a lot learnt from the past. 

And I am told Elizabeth is working on her next book Temptation Rag, which I cannot wait to read! 


3 thoughts on “#bookreview The Beauty Doctor. Elizabeth Hutchinson Bernard @EHBernardAuthor

  1. It’s such a compliment that you would read THE BEAUTY DOCTOR twice, Katie! Thank you for recommending my book to your many followers. E-book pre-orders for my next book, TEMPTATION RAG, will be available early in 2018, with a release date for print and digital most likely in July or August.

    Liked by 1 person

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