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Historical novel set in USA

8th March 2024

The Physician’s Daughter by Martha Conway, historical novel set in USA.

Historical novel set in USA

A charming tale of one woman’s ambition in 19th century America

The Physician’s Daughter by Martha Conway is purely and simply a delight. Set variously in Massachusetts, Cleveland and Boston soon after the American Civil War, this historical novel follows the trials and tribulations of Vita Tenney and her ambition to become one of America’s first woman doctors.

But her father, who is mourning the loss of his son to the war, is old guard and refuses to countenance her wish to attend college and study medicine. Instead, he insists she follows the traditional path of women in those days by getting married – preferably on the same day as her sister Amelia – and bearing children. Vita, of course, will have none of it and starts to make plans to follow her dream.

Enter Jacob, a likeable man who is suffering the effects of the war. He and Vita immediately strike up a friendship which subconsciously starts to develop into something deeper but which neither of them is willing to admit to. As a compromise – and a way to hide their feelings – they devise a “nefarious agreement” which will see Jacob get Vita’s dowry which he promises to use to help her through college.

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The inadvertent appearance of Jacob’s former love throws the plan into chaos and, the day after their wedding, Vita runs away to Ohio where she finds a family friend to be her “preceptor” as she prepares to apply to college.

Months follow, during which time Vita realises how difficult and “intimate” practising medicine can be and she slowly loses her confidence. Jacob, in the meantime, is heartbroken but determined to find Vita again and try to understand why she left in the first place. It’s only a tragedy that brings them together again and enables Vita to find happiness in her career and with her husband.

Easy reading, this engaging story will have you desperate for the two main characters to reunite and pursue the life they both want.

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Val for the TripFiction Team

Catch our reviewer Val on Twitter X @valproctor and author Martha Conway on Twitter X @marthaconway 

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