Monday, August 18, 2014

Elizabeth Camden's "With Every Breath" - another beautifully rich, detailed historical

Cover ArtSet in 1891, Elizabeth Camden's novel focuses on the devastating disease tuberculosis - the leading cause of death in American cities. Kate Livingston, a widow and government statistician, has long resented the loss of a college scholarship to her high school competition, a wealthy young man who did not need it.  Over a decade later, Kate receives a job offer from the man, Trevor McDonough, to be his research assistant in his experiments to find a cure for tuberculosis.  Both Kate and Trevor thrive off of the competition the other offers, and though they grow closer than Kate would have ever thought possible, Trevor has many secrets he keeps buried.  Someone from his past - who, he cannot figure out - has systematically been trying to destroy his career, and now Kate is threatened as well.  Neither Trevor nor Kate is one to back down from a fight, but can they win against an enemy they cannot find?

I liked Trevor as the hero; besides being Mr. Darcy-esque (with all his aloofness, wealth, and appeal), he has strong convictions, and he stands by them even when it costs him.  He knows that he has a calling from God to pursue a cure for tuberculosis, and even if he never finds it, he will continue to alleviate their suffering to the best of his ability, and with every experiment that fails, he will publish the results so no more time is wasted on that false cure.  Yes, he needs to relate better with people, to learn tact and diplomacy and express his feelings more, but his unwavering determination in the face of adversity is an inspiration.  No matter the pain of the circumstances, he knows his calling, and he does not doubt it or ever consider giving it up.  That conviction is something I'd love to see more of!

Ever since losing two brothers to diphtheria, Kate has had trouble with death, and losing her husband in a work accident only compounded her fears.  Though she accepts the job working with terminal tuberculosis patients, she fears letting anyone too deep into her life lest she lose someone else, and Trevor's job, which frequently exposes him to the harmful bacteria, carries risk.  That fear of loving and losing is not uncommon in this world, and it is a hard fear to overcome. 

Like her other works, Camden's story is a well-rounded tale, rich with historical detail and strong, compelling characters.  I enjoy the dry banter between Trevor and Kate and that they develop a strong friendship besides a romance.  The mystery and threats added the element of surprise, and I had the pleasurable experience of not knowing where the story was going.  I appreciate Camden's willingness to tackle a piece of history in which there was little hope - a cure for tuberculosis was not discovered for another fifty years, but the research performed by doctors until then was important, even if they did not themselves live to see the results.  5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book in exchange for an honest review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own. 

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