Author: Rachel Fordham
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel's real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts's lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all.
As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can't help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities?
Rachel Fordham pens a tender tale of a soft-spoken man, a hardened woman, and the friends that stand by them as they work toward a common purpose--to expunge the record of someone society deemed beyond saving--and perhaps find love along the way.
Reviewer: Marie Edwards
Thank you in advance to the publisher, Revell (a division of Baker Books) for providing a complimentary review copy through Interviews & Reviews. A positive review was not required or requested, all words are my own.
Despite seeing some of her books on Revell’s social media, this is the first introduction to the author’s work I’ve had – and what a stunning introduction it was! I’m definitely going to be looking into her other work.
I requested this through Interviews & Reviews and was DELIGHTED that it also ended up being Revell’s Beyond the Book June read. For those that don’t know – the “Beyond the Book” page is a monthly read-along that connects readers as they read the book and provide their own insights. Sometimes the authors drop by for a chat, as Fordham is doing this month. And, the insights for this book are definitely interesting given what this is about.
The delightful and fancy cover is a work of art and drew me right to the book. But, as we all know – never judge a book by the cover.
The plot was fascinating, given the time the story is set in –> a girl being sent to a reform school because of a burglary. This was not only a romance, but a mystery as well that kept burning till nearly the very end. And, a very developed one at that. At times it was beautiful, humorous, emotional, heart-breaking. There will be a few places where readers might need tissues, I know I teared up at moments.
Fordham’s use of short chapters really kept me reading and the story going. Since it was part of the read-along, I was trying to stay within the “plan” (first nine chapters, around 85 pages). The first week was easy. But, the second week? At around 42% the story became so compelling I HAD to keep reading. I finished the remaining 230 pages in less than four hours. And, this type of book (large paperback) is easily a 1-2 day read for me. The pacing did not lag, and Fordham kept up the engaging pace all the way to the end.
Readers get not one, but TWO romances. The first is obviously Hazel/Gilbert’s “slow” romance, and then Hazel’s friend Ina and Duncan.
The characters were absolute perfection. From Hazel to Gilbert, to Gilbert’s brother Eddie, even supporting characters Ina and Duncan. Fordham crafted and connected these characters in such a realistic manner it was hard not to get attached to them (except for Eddie).
Told from Hazel and Gilbert’s POV – this enchanting tale begins (after the prologue) with Hazel seeking to put her criminal past behind her. The problem for her is that despite having served her time for burglary, she is still seen as a criminal, and other than proving her innocence, the only way forward is to lie about who she is. It’s even worse when her parents seemingly disown her. She has lost her inheritance and honor.
She finally gets a job as Dr. Gilbert Watts’ “lady in attendance” (equivalent to today’s dental assistant) – this is more for the female patients so they didn’t need a chaperone. Instantly there is a camaraderie between the two people. But, neither one is looking for a romance. Hazel then self-analyzes and wonders why it took so long for her to care about others. And, this is all still early in the book.
Hazel is still trying to prove her innocence with little luck. That came as no real surprise.
Gilbert offers to help Hazel, no matter what it is. Hazel is conflicted because of her past. Yet, the two grow closer and Gilbert begins to rethink if he is ready for love.
He then starts with the little things – offering his kitchen so Hazel can bake a pie and then brings up how he helped solve a crime. It is as if Fordham wrote him to have a sixth sense to segue into Hazel opening up. Though she doesn’t.
I had to laugh about Hazel wanting to see a disagreeable female patient getting a swat. That was perhaps the funniest moment in this story. But, Gilbert is obviously falling for Hazel. She has given him reason to hope.
It is about 42% in when Hazel does tell Gilbert her past. His reaction is realistic and Fordham takes the reader through the range of his emotions from shock, dismay, disgust, to a sense of duty to help Hazel no matter what the future holds for them – if it holds anything.
But, it is clear – he doesn’t want her to go and his offer to help is sincere. It’s also because her situation is unfair.
Just as she wants to accept, Gilbert’s brother Eddie shows up and it is someone that Hazel knew. Of course, she tries to leave, but Gilbert’s compassion and forgiveness wear her down. Even the cross manager of the boarding house Hazel resides at is on Gilbert’s side.
It is clear that Eddie is bitter and Hazel’s case wasn’t handled properly. The heart of the story takes Gilbert, Hazel, Eddie, Ina, and Duncan back to where it began. Even wretched Eddie has his own doubts as to Hazel’s guilt.
The five soon begin digging and find Hazel was unwittingly drawn into a much bigger and deadlier treachery. And, to prove it, the five people have to rely on a family that Hazel can’t believe still supports her (hint: not her own).
Hazel has an unlikely supporter in her innocence that drags out to almost the end of the novel. The suspense certainly was. Fordham had me turning the pages on this one.
Except for Eddie constantly bringing up Hazel’s past, and her lies to start over – there is really nothing to dislike about this story. Even Hazel’s family’s treatment of her is completely understandable, dislikeable as it is, because of the standards of that time. Also, for those who might be upset about Hazel’s lies – her name and background – lying is never really okay, however she had no choice in order to go forward with her life. At best provide for herself.
I admired Gilbert’s “sense of duty”, as well as Hazel taking some responsibility for her past behavior and connecting it to what happened.
I was left feeling frustrated, delighted, and there were times I cried. This was a beautiful story that can definitely be re-read over and over if not for an endless TBR list.
As this is distributed by Revell, a primarily Christian/faith-based publisher, it is a clean read with no foul language or intimate scenes. There are no real references to God, except for mention of prayer at the reformatory, and this is not essential to the plot.
Fans of the author and genre are sure to enjoy this book."
Reviewer: Marilene VE
Rachel Fordham’s A Lady in Attendance is another well written book by this author. While Doctor Gilbert Watts is a man that doesn't say that much, Hazel is a woman that because she is so fiery, she has made many mistakes in her life. So she is very happy when she gets a job with Dr. Watts as a Lady in Attendance. But soon more than just employer and employee grows. They become close friends of each other. Although Gilbert doesn't say much, he notices that Hazel is hiding something from him. Can he still believe her after she tells him everything? Is there any future for them?
I loved reading about Hazel’s secret. It was beautifully woven into the story. I have never read about a dentist hero. Even though he doesn’t speak that much, his loyalty to Hazel is very sweet. The Christian content was very subtle. But overall this is a book that you don't want to stop reading.
This book is perfect for readers that loved reading The Joplin Chronicles from Regina Jennings or the books from Karen Witemeyer, Tracy Peterson and Lauraine Snelling. If you need a book with some adventure, mystery, suspense, love and characters that are not perfect, then this book is for you.
This book is provided courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Linda Klager
I loved the beautiful cover of the book. In the book, the main character has red in her hair and she is called "Red." This was a very affectionate term given to Hazel.
The book begins in the year 1893. Hazel is innocent of a crime but spends 5 years in prison on a burglary charge. When Hazel was a young girl and then a young woman, she was very headstrong and rebellious. She also asked for much and her parents gave in to her whims. Later on, the parents regretted doing this as Hazel became a big flirt and hurt many people's lives with her reckless behavior. While in prison, Hazel reflects on her life and asks God to help her be a better person. She ministered to many fallen women in that prison, but Hazel felt great guilt and could not forgive herself.
When Hazel finishes her sentence, she receives some money and a letter from her parents to never come back to her home. What is Hazel going to do? She finds a place to live and while there, someone stole a lot of her money. Now she is really desperate! She tries to find work, but a lot of people don't want someone who has a prison record. Then Hazel decides to not mention that she was in prison and changes her last name to avoid discrimination. Hazel finds work as a "lady in attendance". I found out that ladies would not go to a male dentist unless there was also a woman present. Hazel is a very hard worker and proves to be a great asset to Gilbert Watts.
Hazel is living in a boarding house and makes friends with Ina. Ina is very shy and has a mark on her face. Ina does not think anyone would want her but dreams of romance and marriage.
Hazel and Gilbert's relationship changes when they along with Ina go to a Corn Husking Festival. This is a very cute moment and this moment is shared again towards the end of the book. At this festival, Gilbert also introduces Ina to Duncan. Ina and Duncan get along very well and this helps Ina realize that someone can really care for her.
Hazel finally tells Gilbert what happened to her in the past. Gilbert is shocked but wants to help Hazel clear her name, and because Duncan is a lawyer, he and Ina also assist Hazel. These were very caring friends. There is some danger involved in solving this mystery.
This is my first book read by a new author. I really enjoyed her writing, and I want to read another book by Rachel Fordham.
This book was provided courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews.
Reviewer: Lori Parrish
This is a wonderful story that I didn't want to end. Now I have to wait until next year probably for another book by this great and talented storyteller!
I instantly liked Hazel and Gilbert. Especially Gilbert. I feel like he's my kindred spirit. Hazel is the coolest lady ever! My most favorite part? It was the mystery that surrounded Hazel.
I enjoyed turning the pages in this book to her mischievously fun and mysterious ways. Here's a favorite quote, and it's so very true, and it's the real reason I loved Hazel. She spoke the truth.
" I would not have picked the trials that I have gone through, but there's no going back, and I've learned that being angry isn't good. I refuse to carry the burden of regret and have chosen to be grateful where I am today and not dwell on the path that has led me here."
This is why I admired Hazel a great deal. Such wonderful words of wisdom. We never know what life will throw at us. The choices are ours to make. God leaves that up to us. I like to think that's so that we'll humble ourselves and come to Him.
Gilbert, in his quiet way, made me laugh in certain scenes. I do have several favorites with him in it. I felt that he was pretty special.
" Your past led me to you. I love the woman you are today and who you'll be tomorrow. That woman is born from who you were yesterday. I want it all."
That, my friends, is why I love Gilbert.
My thanks for a copy of this book that I received from Revell through Interviews & Reviews. I was NOT required to write a positive review.
Reviewer: Winnie Thomas
Set in New York in the late 1890s, Rachel Fordham’s new book, A Lady in Attendance is a lovely story of redemption, forgiveness, and overcoming life’s obstacles. After spending time in a reformatory for a crime she didn’t commit, Hazel has almost given up finding a way to support herself when she is offered a job as a lady in attendance to a kind, quiet dentist named Gilbert. Determined to prove herself and make her own way in the world, she soon makes herself indispensable with her rapport with the dental patients. I enjoyed the amusing banter between Hazel and Gilbert, and the way Hazel draws him out. It was fun to see a more playful side to Gilbert and to see their relationship progress and grow.
I liked the way Hazel could look back and see that her former behavior contributed to the situation she found herself in, and she was could change and become a better person. Some of the story was rather predictable, although there were some twists and turns toward the end that added some suspense and intrigue. I also enjoyed the side story about Hazel’s friend Ina, and the insight into dental practices during this time period. This is a sweet, clean, and charming historical romance that is an engaging read. I’m looking forward to more stories from this author.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Revell. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Rebecca Maney
"There was a time when Hazel felt irreplaceable and important. But now she was merely a rent payment. A wayward soul with no real place, and the reminder was humbling."
Sometimes life had a way of dismantling one's sense of importance; thus Hazel McDowell had been demoted into a life of humility through no fault, or even every fault, of her own. Five years of reformatory had left her nearly penniless and unable to return home dragging the heavy burden of a tainted reputation. Thrilled to secure a position as a "lady in attendance" to Doctor Gilbert Watts, a local dental physician in a small New York town, Hazel never imagined that this particular employment might provide the opportunity to re-discover herself, begin to atone for her mistakes, and possibly discover love in the process.
"Women were a mystery, that was for certain. And Hazel was no exception. "
Gilbert Watts was content with his life as a dentist, following in his beloved father's footsteps, serving the citizens of Amherst. Now second guessing his decision to hire a lady in attendance, he reluctantly supposed that he could at least allow Hazel McDowell an opportunity to prove her worth. The fact that she didn't bat her eyes at him all the time (like some of the applicants)bode well, and she had readily accepted his terms of firm profession boundaries without question. But before long, it turned out to be Gilbert that actually looked forward to Hazel's lively presence in his office, admiring how she managed difficult tasks with efficiency and appreciating her ability to calm difficult patients with ease. But she's hiding something, he's sure of it. He just had no idea how big.
What a lovely story! With precision plot balance, the author penned a picture of life after . . . navigating the results of grave errors which most would agree could potentially breed anger, resentment, and revenge but had produced humility, kindness, and compassion instead. The blend of character traits in both hero and heroine served them well, painting a picture of grace . . . lived without and within, some very difficult circumstances. And of course the combination of romance and intrigue added to the overall ambiance . . . . . repeat after me, "a red ear of corn".
I received a copy of this book from the Baker Publishing Group through Interviews and Reviews.
Reviewer: Paula Shreckhise
“Forgive yourself. Take the forgiveness that is yours.”
Hazel is looking to God to repair the years that injustice has taken away. Gilbert is kind enough to give her a job attending him in his dental practice, a new concept.
This is a story of hope and making the best of a bad situation with God’s help. “Her father had called Hazel stubborn as a child, and that trait had stuck. She determined now was the time to make that weakness her strength.”
Ms. Fordham conveys the misgivings of Hazel, the friendship bond with Ida and a growing fondness with Gil. Add in a search for unscrupulous bad guys and this story is brimming with adventure. There are elements of faithful steadfastness, reconciliation and setting things right. The romance is sweet and contains two match ups!
A great historical book.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by Revell through Interviews and Reviews. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
Rachel Fordham has once again given us a story that doesn't let you go until the last page but stays with you long after you close the book.
Hazel has just spent five years in a state reformatory for a crime she didn't commit. Now she needs to clear her name and find a way to support herself while doing so. The problem is that most people won't hire someone with such a questionable background. So she changes her name and ends up working for a dentist (Gilbert Watts) as a lady in attendance.
While she tries to make sense of how she was framed for a crime she didn't commit, Hazel begins to realize she needs to trust someone with what has happened to her. Especially when she is attracted to that someone.
I loved the friendship between Hazel and Gilbert and how she brought out the best in him and vice versa. While their romance brewed beneath the surface, they grew together as good friends first.
The theme of redemption is strong in this story and how important it is to learn to forgive others for their transgressions and forgive yourself for past mistakes. I also loved how the author fit Ina and Duncan into the story. Ina's story will resonate with many who feel uncomfortable in their own skin.
A beautiful tale of romance, danger and possibilities! I highly recommend it!
I received this book courtesy of Revell through NetGalley for my honest opinion.
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