Sunday, July 15, 2012

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell

I noticed The Doctor and the Diva by Adrienne McDonnell while browsing in the bookstore back when it was first released. I was intrigued by the premise but put the book back on the shelf because I had told myself I couldn’t buy anything new until I put a dent in my TBR pile. My resolve never lasts very long. My pile continues growing. But I did hold off one acquiring this particular book for quite awhile. And then, my book club chose it for this month’s selection.

So! There was nothing I could do but give in and buy it.

Set in the early 1900's, it tells the story of three people: an intense, intelligent obstetrician/fertility expert named Dr. Ravell and one of the couples who has come to him for help. The husband is Peter Myrick, a wealthy Boston businessman. His wife is Erika von Kessler, a beautiful woman with an extraordinary gift for singing. More than anything, Erika wants to pursue her dream of becoming an opera singer. She also wants a child, but years of barrenness have convinced her that only one door is open to her– her preferred one.

Erika is harboring secret plans of running off to Italy to pursue her career, but she continues to go through the motions of seeking to become pregnant to please Peter. Dr. Ravell, who has heard Erika sing and is enthralled by her, cannot bear to think of the sorrow she and her husband are facing. He becomes even more determined to help her conceive. And Peter is obsessed with the idea of having a child not just to become a father, but to bind his wife to him more fully.

This is a gripping story of people who, to all appearances, have everything in the world, but each of whom is yearning for the one thing just out of reach. While some of the plot events are predictable, there were enough surprises to keep me on my toes as I read. The characters are very well drawn. Their dilemmas are laid out in clear enough terms that a reader can understand why they take the paths they do, even if the choices are appallingly hard. As a historical novel, it was a fascinating snapshot of a certain segment of society of the times.

I’m adding it to my Historical Novel Challenge books. The challenge is hosted by Historical Tapestries. Come check out the reviews and find more books to add to your TBR piles!