by Amy Carol Reeves
In 1888, following her mother's sudden death, 17-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother's request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there. But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
Hmm, that description doesn't quite tell the whole story.
Arabella, or Abbie as her friends call her, feels trapped in the Kensington high society her grandmother wants her to travel in and jumps at the opportunity to work at the hospital in Whitechapel. In fact, she spends as much time as possible there to escape the teas and gossip her grandmother insists she attend. And her mother and grandmother were estranged at the time of her mother's death. Her grandmother disowned Abbie's mother for eloping with a French poet. Abbie grew up in Dublin while her mother worked as a governess for various wealthy families.
At first, the work is gruesome and some of the doctors and nurses don't think she's up to the challenge of the hard labor being the granddaughter of Lady Westfield. But, they don't know she's grown up on the streets of Dublin and lived a hard life in between her mother's governess jobs. She's an expert with a knife and gone without food at times for lack of money. She's not the privileged girl they expect and she proves not only invaluable but extremely intelligent and willing to learn. In fact, she has determined she wants to go to medical college. And her grandmother's friend that runs the hospital, Dr. Bartlett, has taken a special interest in her education and in her, treating her as an equal instead of just a woman, as many men would have in that day.
But, then, patients from the Whitechapel Hospital start dying the day they are voluntarily released. Dying by the hand of a psychopathic murderer. I think we all know the Jack the Ripper stories so I won't go into the details. This story puts a different if implausible twist on who Jack the Ripper was, but it was an interesting story. I didn't realize this was a paranormal story until I was midway through but I feel a little dumb, visions should have clued me in. I also felt a little confused as I read, like maybe a little too much was going on. There was the Jack the Ripper killings, the romance (love triangle) and then another aspect that I won't mention because it will be a spoiler. And the paranormal story which didn't only include Abbie's visions. I didn't know what to focus on. It turned out that two of the storylines converged into one and the love triangle resolved easily so eventually things came together, but for a bit, I had too many names and tangents to try to remember what was going on.
I liked Abbie, she was analytical and as she tells the story, she spoke in the cool calm tones of women of that day and social standing were required to. She reminded me of the women from a Jane Austen novel (not the silly ones). Even when she was scared out of her mind, she remained calm and able to focus and keep cool. Not me, I'd have run screaming and hollering, but I'm guessing that wouldn't be what a proper lady would do.
William and Simon are two of the doctors at the Whitechapel Hospital that admire/desire Abbie. Mary Kelly works at the hospital, too. Abbie got her a job there. And then there are the infamous parties at Dr. Bartlett's home where his housemates reside, a professor of literature, a reverend and a scientist. And Bartlett's nephew Max who pops in and out of the house. Abbie finds herself intrigued by him but repelled by him as well.
In all, I really enjoyed the story. It definitely wasn't trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders with the paranormal twist to it, but I liked what Reeves added to the story. It was always to me a bit scary, with London being gloomy or dark or rainy. And those big old houses with their four stories and not enough people to fill them. Gothic, romantic, dangerous, and Jack the Ripper. All with a paranormal twist. What more could you ask for?? Right?
I received a copy of this novel from the Publisher Flux through Net Galley. I appreciate them letting me read it. This in no way influenced my review.