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review 2017-08-18 09:44
The Black Death, midwifery and it was hard to be a woman in XIV century France. Highly recommended
Blood Rose Angel (The Bone Angel Series Book 3) - Liza Perrat

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is the third novel I have read in the series The Bone Angel and the fourth novel by Liza Perrat. (You can check my reviews of Spirit of Lost Angel here, Wolfsangel here and The Silent Kookaburra here.) You might have guessed by now that I enjoy her books. Having read The Silent Kookaburra first, for quite a while I thought that was my favourite of the author’s novels (and don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the others) but now, I’m not so sure.

We are in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France, 1348. The whole series is set in the same location and follows the characters of the female line of a family who are linked by their midwifery skills (or wish to care for others) and by the passing of a talisman, the bone angel of the title. All the women of the series feel a strange connection to this angel (whose story/legend we hear, first- hand, in this book) and to each other, although this novel is, so far, the one set further back in the past, and at a very momentous time (like all the others). The Black Death decimated a large part of the world population and this novel offers us the perspective of the people who lived through it and survived to tell the tale.

The story is narrated, mostly in the first person, by midwife Héloïse, whose birth was problematic (her mother, Ava, a midwife herself, died before she was born and her aunt, Isa, extracted her from the womb) and due to the superstitions of the time, she was shunned and taunted as a child (she was not only a bastard, as her father was unknown, but she was also ‘unborn’). She always felt guilty for her mother’s death and resisted becoming a midwife due to that. But, eventually, she heeded her calling, learned from her aunt, and has become loved and appreciated by most people (apart from a few villagers who blame her for unlucky events). Unfortunately, as human nature dictates, when the epidemic reaches the village (at the same time as her husband, a stonemason who had been working in Florence) and people start dying, everybody looks for someone to blame, be it cats, the Jews, the lepers, or… There are a few chapters told from other characters’ point of view, only to complete the picture when Heloise is otherwise engaged (I’m trying not to give any spoilers here).

Héloïse is a strong-willed woman, who struggles between trying to fulfill her vocation (what she sees as her mission no matter how little recompense he gets for it) and being a dutiful wife who puts her husband and family above everything else. She is a compelling character and one that rings true and whose situation is ever relevant, especially to women who always have to try and find a balance between career and family life. She is a worthy heroine, who cares for people, who tries to do the right thing, even if it might cost her, who perseveres and remains faithful to her ideas, who doubts and questions acknowledged ‘truths’, and who is a natural leader. The rest of the characters, both, villagers and nobles, good and nasty, are all well-defined and recognisable, although perhaps the female characters are drawn in more detail than the males (although midwifery and birthing was women’s business at the time, so it is understandable), and I must say I felt like a member of her extended family by the end of the book.

The novel’s plot is fascinating and as good as any historical fiction I have read. History and fiction blend seamlessly to create a story that is gripping, emotionally satisfying, and informative. Even when we might guess some of the twists and turns, they are well-resolved, and the ending is satisfying. (I have read some reviews that mention it is a bit rushed. It is true that it all comes together at a faster pace than the rest of the novel, but my suspicion is that readers didn’t want the story to end. I know that was my case).  The life of the villagers is well observed, as is the relationship between the different classes, the politics of the era, the role of religion, the power held by nobles and the church, the hypocrisy, superstition, and prejudice, and the social mores and roles of the different genders. The descriptions of the houses, clothing, medical and midwifery procedures, and the everyday life are detailed enough to make us feel immersed in the era without slowing down the plot, that is a page turner in its own right. I particularly enjoyed the sense of community (strongly dominated by women) and the optimism that permeates the novel, showing the strength of the human spirit even in the hardest of circumstances. The author includes a glossary at the end that explains the words no longer in use that appear in the novel and also provides background information on the Black Death and the historical figures that grace its pages. Although it is evident that the book involved a great deal of research, this is flawlessly weaved into the story and add to the feeling of authenticity.

This novel, like the rest of the series, can be read as a stand-alone, although I doubt that anybody reading it will not want to read the rest.

Another great novel by Liza Perrat and one of my favourites. I will not forget it in a hurry and I hope to keep reading more novels by the author. I recommend it to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the era, the Black Death, and medical techniques of the time, readers of women’s fiction, and anybody looking for great characters and a writer to follow.

 

 

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text 2015-03-04 15:17
Delivery: Midwives in Romances
Butterfly Garden: A Sensual Amish Historical Romance - Annette Blair
Virgin River - Robyn Carr
Lady in the Mist (The Midwives #1) - Laurie Alice Eakes
The Midwife and the Lawman - Marisa Carroll
Karma - Viola Grace
By Julie Garwood The Secret - Julie Garwood
This Golden Land - Barbara Wood
Never Less Than a Lady (Lost Lords #2) - Mary Jo Putney
A Midwife Crisis - Lisa Cooke
The Midwife of Venice - Roberta Rich

Call of the Midwife and a rethinking of Western childbirth practice are giving the midwife the spotlight in popular culture but these heroines have always been abundant in Romance Novels. 

 

A powerful part of women's work in any time period, these heroines deserve a starring role.

 

Here is a diverse array of Midwife Heroines from Romanceland.  My lists are never in any particular order. 

 

1. Butterfly Garden: A Sensual Amish Historical Romance by Annette Blair

 

Amish woman Sara Lapp, all but shunned for studying with the English doctor to become a midwife, is shocked that, after months of waiting, her first call to tend a birth comes from self-appointed outcast Mad Adam Zuckerman. For his wife’s sake, Sara boldly tells Adam that he is killing Abby with so many babies so close, but Abby is already dead.

Adam did not call Sara to tend the birth, but to give her his children. Though Sara knows Abby’s girls belong with their father, how can she leave them with a man who seems not to care for them? As much as she loves and wants the girls, she decides that she will only take them long enough to teach Adam to love them.

As a child Adam heard the words, “I do this because I love you,” with his father’s every abuse. Adam is afraid to love his children, afraid that in doing so, he will hurt them. Without Abby to protect them, Adam must find someone else, and he can think of only one woman strong and brave enough, Spinster Sara Lapp.

 

2. Virgin River by Robyn Carr

 

Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal-clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.

When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad, she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving: the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she's made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning.

But a tiny baby, abandoned on a front porch, changes her plans…and former marine Jack Sheridan cements them into place.

 

3. The Secret by Julie Garwood

 

Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud and loyal. Her dear Scottish friend from childhood was about to give birth, and Judith had promised to be at her side. But there was another, private reason for the journey from her bleak English home to the Highlands: to meet the father she had never known, the Laird Maclean. Nothing prepared her, however, for the sight of the Scottish barbarian who was to escort her into his land...Iain Maitland, Laird of his clan, a man more powerfully compelling than any she had ever encountered.


In a spirited clash of wills and customs, Judith reveled in the melting bliss of Iain's searching kisses, his passionate caresses. Perplexed by her sprightly defiance, bemused by her tender nature, Iain felt his soul growing into the light and warmth of her love. Surely nothing would wrench her from the affection and trust of Iain and his clan...not even the truth about her father, a devastating secret that could shatter the boldest alliance, and the most glorious of loves!

 

4. Karma by Viola Grace

 

Olive has wanted to take midwife training, but the waiting list is nearly a decade long. When she is offered the chance to take the training and go into space, she takes it. Who wouldn’t?

Assigned as midwife to a pregnant Terran on an alien world, she is immersed in a world of fighters, trainers and paparazzi.

Regaran knows that a Terran would be a good match for him, but the only one he knows is taken. When he meets Olive, he is stunned by his response to her soft words and shy manner. After she gets a good night’s sleep, he finds out that her words are carefully chosen and she is not as demure as she looks. She’s a warrior who picks her battles, and he is looking for a fight.

 

5. Lady in the Mist by Laurie Alice Eakes

 

By virtue of her profession as a midwife, Tabitha Eckles is the keeper of many secrets. Dominick Cherrett is a man with his own secret to keep: namely, why he, a British aristocrat, is on American soil working as an indentured servant.

In a time when relations between America and England rest on the edge of a knife, Tabitha and Dominick cross paths, leading them on a journey of intrigue, threats, public disgrace, and . . . love. But can Tabitha trust Dominick? Finding true love seems impossible in a world set against them.

 

6.  The Midwife and the Lawman by Marisa Carroll

 

If Devon Grant had her way, she'd turn her back on Enchantment. There's simply too much history in that small town. But her sense of honor has her returning to help her ailing grandmother run The Birth Place—even though she's still angry about her grandmother's past actions. And there's also Miguel Eiden, the man who broke her heart ten years before.

 

Then Devon uncovers a secret and must decide what to do and who to trust—because in order to help three innocent children she might have to bend, if not break, the law. Not so easy when the new chief of police is her old love Miguel.

 

7. This Golden Land by Barbara Wood

 

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Conroy has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps as a healer. But in nineteenth-century England, the medical profession is closed to women. She sees midwifery as a back door into that world, but her fledgling career is crushed by personal tragedy. Seeking to escape a possible murder conviction in England, Hannah’s world is turned upside down as she boards a boat bound for Melbourne. Young and naïve, with some laboratory notes and a handful of medical instruments, she hopes Australia is a place of a new beginning and a fresh start, a place where she can begin a midwife practice. Arriving during a period of enormous change in Australia, Hannah faces a myriad of challenges. Not only must she fight for acceptance as a medical professional, but she also falls in love with and must decide between two men: an American photographer seeking a new life in Australia, and a rowdy outlaw fleeing arrest. This Golden Land presents a love story that neither time nor distance can erase.

 

8. Never Less Than A Lady by Mary Jo Putney

 

As the sole remaining heir to the Earl of Daventry, Alexander Randall knows his duty: find a wife and sire a son of his own. The perfect bride for a man in his position would be a biddable young girl of good breeding. But the woman who haunts his imagination is Julia Bancroft--a village midwife with a dark secret that thrusts her into Randall's protection.

Within the space of a day, Julia has been abducted by her first husband's cronies, rescued, and proposed to by a man she scarcely knows. Stranger still is her urge to say yes. A union with Alexander Randall could benefit them both, but Julia doubts she can ever trust her heart again, or the fervent desire Randall ignites. Yet perhaps only a Lost Lord can show a woman like Julia everything a true marriage can be. . .

 

9. A Midwife Crisis by Lisa Cooke

 

Due to her family’s meddling, an Appalachian midwife finds herself with three eager fiancés, but it’s the new doctor in town who makes her pulse race.

 

Katie Napier’s zany family has decided she needs a husband. And when Katie’s family puts their mind to something, it’s as good as done. In fact, they’re so good, they’ve arranged three fiancés for her in less than a week. What’s a midwife to do?

 

Dr. John Keffer is used to helping people. It’s why he came back to the Appalachian Mountains—to build a new practice and leave behind the painful memories of the big city. But usually his help is of a medical nature, not advising the most captivating woman he’s ever met which man to wed. A difficult task, especially once he decides he wants to keep her for himself.

 

10. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

 

Hannah Levi is renowned throughout Venice for her gift at coaxing reluctant babies from their mothers using her secret “birthing spoons.” When a count implores her to attend his dying wife and save their unborn son, she is torn. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but his payment is enough to ransom her husband Isaac, who has been captured at sea. Can she refuse her duty to a woman who is suffering? Hannah’s choice entangles her in a treacherous family rivalry that endangers the child and threatens her voyage to Malta, where Isaac, believing her dead in the plague, is preparing to buy his passage to a new life.

 

 

Did I miss your favorite? Let me know! Vote on my Goodreads list: Delivery: Midwives in Romances.

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review 1994-01-01 00:00
Spiritual Midwifery - Ina May Gaskin "Why," you surely ask, "is a man reviewing Spiritual Midwifery?"

Frankly put, I delivered two of my children at home. Yes, there was a midwife looking over my shoulder, but I did all the dirty work with my wife. From start to finish, these pregnancies were ours.

Ina May Gaskin's book is . . . well, groovy is the word. It's not a real how-to, nuts and bolts guide to home delivery, though it does explain in great (and graphic, not for young children) detail the mechanics of it all. It also offers sage advice on nutrition, circumcision, prenatal visits, and so forth. The most intriguing aspect of the book, however, are the vignettes recounting the stories of various pregnancies on The Farm. From a multitude of viewpoints, life and the giving of life on The Farm is dissected and observed, examined and appreciated by those who lived it. Would I choose to live there? Heck, no. But I see the attraction. And just like living at the farm, this book isn't for everyone, but it's definitely worth considering. Again, not for the faint of heart, but for the open heart.
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