A Debutante In Disguise
Eleanor Webster
Romance , Women's Fiction, Regency, Historical
Mills & Boon
30 May 2019

A society lady …with a secret!

Determined to help people, Letty Barton has a double life – she’s a trained doctor! No-one must know 'Dr Hatfield' is actually a woman. Called to an emergency, she comes face to face with her patient’s brother, Lord Anthony Ashcroft… They’d once shared a spark-filled flirtation – now he’s a brooding, scarred war-hero. But how long will it be before he recognises her, beneath her disguise, and the sparks begin to fly once more…?

This novel tackles yet another of the prejudices that were prevalent in Regency times – the fact that women were not permitted to become doctors.

It is good to see historical romance writers looking for more unusual, but politically and societally relevant, topics to cover within the trope. This novel was enjoyable and well written and looked at the Regency world and its constraints on how women were expected to employ themselves, especially the more gently born ones.

According to the Sicence Museum: “Women have always been central in providing medical care, whether offering remedies in the home, nursing or acting as herbalists. However, the medical profession has been male dominated for most of its history. In Europe this came about from the 1400s, when many cities and governments decided that only those trained in universities were allowed to formally practise medicine. As women were not allowed into the universities they could not gain a licence”.

[http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/practisingmedicine/women]

Even though there was a woman doctor – Trotula – at the earliest European medical school in Salerno, Italy, in the 800s. And then there was Dr Laura Bassi, who was  appointed Professor of Anatomy at the University of Bologna in 1732.

This novel however, is clearly based very loosely on Margaret Bulkley (1792 or 1795-1865) AKA James Barry who  masqueraded as a male doctor for 46 years,  and who was a successful British Army surgeon serving in India and Cape Town, South Africa,

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