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When Chadwick Radcliffe arrives at Fort Daniels to assume the position of medical chief, the prejudice against his mixed heritage is no surprise. But he never expected to encounter the one woman who’s beyond his reach—medically and emotionally.
A steamcart accident stole three years of Claire McPhee’s memories, and now as she helps soldiers cope with combat-related neuroses, she secretly hopes to find the key to filling that gaping hole.
There’s something vaguely familiar about Dr. Radcliffe, but every time she comes close to determining why, he pushes her away—and her hypnosis-induced memory blocks explode with pain.
Chadwick knows the Eros Element can heal, but its unintended side effects are too dangerous to risk using it to bring Claire’s memories out of the shadows. But with the key to the Union’s victory buried in Claire’s mind, Chadwick and Claire are forced to push past the boundaries others have placed on them—even if rediscovering their love risks their lives.
Warning: Vast amounts of Victorian mental health geekery and copious amounts of tea were poured into the writing of his book. No matter how pretty the aether is, the author cautions readers not to try using it to manipulate others’ emotions. The side effects could be atrocious.
Chadwick Radcliffe is the head of the hospital, essentially. As a black man in the American South during the Civil War – a war revolving around slavery – Chadwick doesn’t get any breaks. He is a bit of a broken man, having lost his fiance to a terrible accident several years ago. The thing is, she is still alive and well, but Claire’s memories of the steamcart accident claimed several years of her life and health. She is now stationed at his hospital to work with soldiers coping with combat-related neuroses. She doesn’t remember Chadwick, but he and his pal Patrick surely remember her, and they can’t let on that they knew her in a former life. Claire is gradually aware that things seem familiar, but the blocks in her hypnosis-induced memory keep things at bay or cause excruciating pain.
Chadwick does not want to pain Claire further, but she might be the key to solving more than one issue. The Eros Element has been shown to heal before, but the risk is great.
Chadwick Radcliffe – an African American doctor in charge of Distillery Hospital; he is Claire’s former fiancé; working with Patrick on his aether project
Patrick O’Connell – an Irishman in charge of a new weaponry project for the U.S. military involving the eros element, aether
Claire McPhee – a (white) doctor who has been assigned to Distillery Hospital to practice mental health medicine so soldiers can be sent back to the battlefront; she has recently recovered from traumatic events and is fragile; can interpret and feel things about others
Nanette – the head nurse at Distillery; she greatly loves Chadwick and resolutely hates Claire
Mrs. Soper – the housekeeper for the General’s House; she befriends Claire and takes her in like her own
Major Longchamp – the major in charge at the base; he is friends with Mrs. Soper and befriends Claire
Gregory Perkins – a white doctor put out that he was overlooked for a promotion; he is lewd and believes in amputation
Bryce McPhee – Claire’s cousin; a patient at Distillery
“What is it? You can’t die. I need someone to help me, but they need to be alive.”
“Help you with what?”
“I’m not sure. Something happened before the attack, and it has something to do with why you can see me when no one could before you got here. Except for Mrs. Soper.”
The Highs and Lows
- An Oddity. When I started reading this installment in the series, I realized it was a little different than the others. In the first and second books, a female character and her love interest – tied to the aether, of course – were the focus of the book. The female character in the second book had appeared in the first book and been a major supporting character. That’s not the case at all in this third book, which I found a little odd. When I started reading I kept thinking there was something off, and that’s why. The first two books also started with the opening in the POV of those female characters.
- The Location and Setting. The book is set at Fort Daniels, Tennessee in 1871. This is toward the conclusion of the Civil War in the States, but things are still raging strong at this point. This is important to note because the book is set in the South, which was fighting for slavery and states rights, and Chadwick is a black doctor in charge of this base hospital. There are even patients who refuse to be under his care. As the book progresses, Claire does have flashbacks to other places within the last few years.
- The Ghost of the General. It is rumored that the women’s quarters at the base are haunted. When Claire arrives at the General’s House for alternative sleeping arrangements, she encounters the ghostly form of the General’s daughter, who died a few years prior to “the consumption.” Emma ends up saving Claire from a disastrous outcome, and later follows her to the black quarters. She keeps saying she needs to do something before she is at peace. And then there’s this whole other aspect of ghosts and weird things going on. I’m still not sure what that was about.
- Patrick. Once again, Patrick is an outstanding friend to both Chadwick and Claire. He’s just a great guy and I loved that he tagged along with Chadwick back to the States. Although he is struggling with the aether, he wants to create a weapon that will end the war.
- Nanette. She is the head nurse and works heavily with Chadwick, but she is a nasty snake of a woman. She’s really good with the patients, but she is a horrible person.
- Claire. She is very fragile and has undergone extensive psychotherapy – in what form, it is unclear, but her cousin Bryce reveals that he will not speak with Chadwick about what his mother and her mother did to her following the accident, so it’s not good. Throughout the book, Claire mentions a doctor in Europe putting “blocks” on her (her memory) and she does not remember hardly anything of her life before. When she encounters something of her life before (Chadwick, Bryce, familiar comments or words) it triggers horrendous headaches and sometimes fainting. She continues to have dreams and nightmares about her past, and a little bit more is revealed each time. Although some things are revealed about the accident through Chadwick and Patrick, nothing is known of Claire’s “care” after the accident. It was very frustrating trying to figure out the references Chadwick would make, not knowing what had happened, and the fact that Claire herself didn’t even know what had happened to her.
- A Spy in the Ranks. After a time, there were a couple of comments from various characters to indicate that someone working inside the base was a traitor, working for the Confederacy. A double agent. I knew immediately who it was, but it turns out that there was more than one culprit.
I liked the care with which everyone, ahem, OK, Chadwick, Patrick, Lacey, Mrs. Soper and Major Longchamp treated Claire. She was very delicate and fragile, despite being sent to the front lines of a brutal Civil War. Despite her challenges, they all pitched in to take care of Claire and keep her with them.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
Borrow! I’m not sure if this is the final book in the series – I hope not, I hope Patrick gets his girl!
Cecilia Dominic wrote her first story when she was two years old and has always had a much more interesting life inside her head than outside of it. She became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop writing fiction. The first draft of her dissertation, while not fiction, was still criticized by her major professor for being written in too entertaining a style. She made it through graduate school and got her PhD, started her own practice, and by day, she helps people cure their insomnia without using medication. By night, she blogs about wine and writes fiction she hopes will keep her readers turning the pages all night. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, so she writes and blogs under a pen name. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats, which, she’s been told, is a good number of each. She also enjoys putting her psychological expertise to good use helping other authors through her Characters on the Couch blog post series.
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