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The Nightingale Sisters: Nightingale #2 by Donna Douglas

Book Review:

The second installment in a series that carries (for me) the feeling of Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey, both BBC productions. We have met the ladies in the first book, the three young women from various levels of society: Dora, Millie and Helen, although Helen does take a bit of a backseat to a new Night Nurse with issues and secrets of her own.

If you are familiar with the first book, Nightingale Girls, you will know that Dora’s family life is a struggle. Little money, less possibility for upward mobility, Dora is the most determined of the three, and she also has the most difficulty in processing and prioritizing her own needs when her family is in such dire straits.

Millie is the aristo, and while I expected a touch more of her ‘devil may care’ approach to her studies and the challenges, she is far more grown up: as clearly delineated by her questioning all she had been raised to believe, and worrying if her engagement is the best choice.  Helen is still about, although more emphasis is spent in dissection and discussion about William from Millie, who still holds a crush on her friend’s brother despite an engagement.

Conflict and societal change is brought forward in this book with the Blackshirt Uprisings, a group of British Fascists who bring their own brand of hatreds, racism and societal inequities to light in a time when Britain is already facing wholesale changes.  While not specifically delving into the fascist movement, the shockwaves of the protests are sure to effect the hospital and these 3 student nurses.

Douglas delves deeper into the hospital hierarchy and the girls’ reliance, avoidance or complaints about various Sisters (those of higher ranking) who are both teaching, supervising and training them as they learn to become fully-fledged nursing sisters.  While the medical processes and procedures are not paramount, the insets and accuracy with which Douglas presents the information makes it an interesting side note, and adds to the feel of the time and, when considered with modern sensibilities, primitive approaches and tools.

We get to meet a Night Sister, Violet, who has a secret to keep and the lives, fears, hopes and despairs of the characters: all the characters are clearly presented in a way that keeps you reading on.  Narrative voices change to present points of view from each character, and it feels very natural while adding to your own knowledge and insight into each character.  While there are some elusions to sex and domestic violence, the actual action is “off screen” and we are simply treated to the aftermath, both in description and outcome.

Part romance, part adventure, and wholly engaging, this is a series not to be missed, and is best read in series order.

The Nightingale Sisters: Nightingale #2 by Donna Douglas

Title: The Nightingale Sisters
Author: Donna Douglas
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
Published by: Random House, UK - North America
Format:eBook
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 448
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 21 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Heat: One Flame

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About the Book:

To the student nurses at The Nightingale hospital, the ward sisters are heartless and frightening, with impossibly high standards. But the sisters have troubles of their own...

Violet
The new night sister is not all that she seems. Who is she and what dark secret is she hiding? As the mystery deepens, Sister Wren is determined to find out the truth.

Dora
The student nurse is struggling with her own secret, and with her heartbreak over Nick, the man who got away. A new arrival on the ward brings the chance to put a smile back on her face. But can she really get over Nick so easily?

Millie
Dora's fellow student is also torn between the two men in her life. But then an unexpected friendship with an elderly patient makes her question where her heart - and her future - really lies.

As the nation mourns the death of King George V, it seems as if nothing is ever going to be the same again, especially for the women at the Nightingale.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Donna Douglas

I’ve always loved telling stories. Even before I could hold a pen, I would sit on top of the coal bunker in our south London back yard, making up tales in my head. My greatest joy was when my grandmother bought me an exercise book, which I could fill with stories (a shiny new notebook still gives me a thrill now – oh, the endless possibilities of those empty pages!).

When I was 40, I published my first novel, Waiting in the Wings, under the name of Donna Hay. The novel won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award. Seven contemporary romantic comedies followed. But although I loved writing romance (and still do!), I always wanted to try something a bit grittier. So when my publisher suggested I might like to write some stories set in an East End hospital, I jumped at the chance.

I researched endlessly, talking to former nurses, reading books and journals and raiding archives. And the more I read, the more fascinated I became. I decided to start at the beginning of the story, with three students taking their first steps into nursing. I also decided to give them very different backgrounds, to see how they coped. And so The Nightingale Girls was born.

There are so many more stories to be told, and the more I research, the more I find. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

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