Having thoroughly enjoyed Jocelyn Green's The Mark of the King in January, I was excited to go back and read one of her previous releases. This story was inspired by the life of Georgeanna Woolsey, real life pioneer nurse during the Civil War, which was also a draw for me. The history of nursing is so fascinating! It has come so far in less than 200 years.
Our Georgeanna stand-in is Charlotte Waverly, a New York socialite who is beginning to grow old enough to hear "old maid" whispers. Always a bit unconventional, Charlotte is interested in helping with the war effort in any way she can. When she hears about training beginning to be offered for female nurses, she's determined to be among the first who answer the call, even though it means going against the wishes of her mother and the man who is courting her.
The resistance of those close to home is nothing like what Charlotte faces both in getting into the program and once she travels to Washington. The Army is convinced that women have no business nursing wounded soldiers, no matter how great the need. Yet once the battles begin, they begrudgingly allow Charlotte to begin assisting - but only with the most menial, humiliating tasks.
Alongside Charlotte, this is also the story of Ruby, an Irish immigrant whose husband has enlisted. The poverty she's known in New York slums only grows worse as Matthew's paycheck fails to arrive. In desperate straights, Ruby is forced to consider prostitution in order to keep food on the table.
I did not enjoy this book as much as I anticipated. I think I would have enjoyed a book about Georgeanna herself more than this fictional account. I felt there were too many point of view characters who did not serve a real purpose, and for some reason I never felt a connection with Charlotte. This may have been because the main antagonist is so horrifying that it was hard to understand why she couldn't see through him, and I could not understand what was preventing her and the man she truly loved from expressing their feelings. There were also sexual assault scenes, which while tactfully written, still were disturbing.
The historical side of this novel was quite interesting. Another series on the development of the nursing field is Sarah Sundin's Wings of a Nightingale, which focuses on the first flight nurses during World War II. I would recommend those books before this one, but I will probably check out more Jocelyn Green books in the future, as her 2017 release was so good.