New York City, 1831.
Passion, medicine and a plan to break the law …
When Doctor William Blackwood, a proper gentleman who prefers books to actual patients, meets retired Navy surgeon Doctor Augustus Hill, they find in each other not just companionship but the chance of pleasure–and perhaps even more. The desire between them is undeniable but their budding relationship is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious patient at New York Hospital.
Mr. Moss has been accused of being born a woman but living his life as a man, an act that will see him committed to an asylum for the rest of his life. William and Augustus are determined to mount a rescue even if it means kidnapping him instead.
Their desperate plan sets William and Augustus against the hospital authorities, and the law. Soon they find themselves embroiled in New York’s seedy underworld, mixed up with prostitutes, spies, and more than a lifetime’s worth of secrets. When nothing is as it seems can they find something real in each other?
Overall Rating: 8/10 stars
Arthur’s Review: 3/5 Stars
The Doctor’s Discretion is about William Blackwood and Augustus Hill, two doctors thrown together by a project cataloging the medical collection of a doctor who recently passed away. Their acquaintance starts simply enough with their work, and later their day ends with a bit of a one night stand at Blackwood’s rooms.
It seems that will be that – a fling, and then back to quietly working together on the cataloging.
Except a new patient arrives at the hospital where Hill works. A patient who is described by their doctors as a woman masquerading as a man. Hill, who knows full well that he could be seen as such by the very people he works with, doesn’t want to just sit by and do nothing. So he enlists Blackwood’s help and they formulate a plan to rescue this new patient, Moss, before the hospital can examine him and have him sent to the asylum.
Overall I liked this book. I like historical settings with queer characters – even with that ever-present depressing knowledge of societal judgments overhanging everything. I like the acknowledgement that we have always existed, despite the threat inherent in being discovered.
The trans rep in this worked well for me. Aside from the doctors who ‘discovered’ Moss, the trans characters are who they are. They are treated as themselves, as men.
There is a scene, when Hill first tells Blackwood, where Blackwood’s initial reaction is to feel lied to and deceived. Hill, of course, pulls back from him after that because he doesn’t want to be hurt. They’ll work together to help Moss, but Hill won’t risk being hurt. Blackwood, meanwhile, knows he fucked up. He knows that that reaction was in no way accurate, that Hill hadn’t lied to him at all, and he wants to try to fix it. But he also knows he might not be able to. And I really liked that touch.
The only thing that didn’t really work for me was the ‘big reveal’. I’m putting it in quotes because it was…kind of anticlimactic as reveals go. Apparently Moss is a spy? I guess? And a fellow spy was coming to get him out? I don’t know, it felt…shoehorned in, I guess? Like here’s this big difficult thing we have to do except…it’s not actually all that big because Moss is a spy and protected by higher powers.
This is a good story, well written, with good trans rep. I just wish the resolution hadn’t been so underwhelming.
Laura’s Review: 5/5 Stars
There were a lot of things I loved about The Doctor’s Discretion and I can’t think of one simple thing I didn’t. I’ve come to really like and respect EE Ottoman as a writer and storyteller and this one was no exception.
First, the setting. Historical and both MCs are doctors? Sign me up! Those are two of my weaknesses and when combined, Ottoman does an amazing job with them. It reminded me of the TV series “The Nick” – and if you haven’t seen that, I don’t know what you’re waiting for – and managed to transport me to 19th Century New York, to the point where I felt like I was actually there, and I could even smell it. That’s no small feat.
I loved the MCs, and even if at first I thought their relationship was a bit too quick and abrupt Ottoman manages to make me forget that and made me fall for them at the same time they were falling for each other. I liked them both together and on their own, and when the book finished it left me wanting to read more of their life together.
I really like the way EE Ottoman does representation for every identity. And in this book, I particularly loved the way William’s thoughts progressed after he was an arse to Augustus when he bared one of his deepest secrets to him. I loved how Ottoman made William actually realize he’d been an idiot, and how he apologized to Augustus and admitted his wrongs. And I also adored how Augustus’ feelings about it jumped out of the page and I could empathize with him (don’t tell anyone, but it may have made me cry a little).
As for the plot, it had a bit of everything. It was a mystery and an adventure, with an action driven story line and remarkable secondary characters found along the way. I just couldn’t stop reading once everything started happening.
And if I’m not mistaken, EE Ottoman left a door open for a second book, and I can’t wait to read more of this world and these characters. As with everything I’ve read from this author, I 100% recommend this.