More Than a Dream
Catherine Stanhope has only one dream – to be a nurse. She achieves her dream despite the objections of family and society. She even goes so far as to follow Florence Nightingale to help in the field hospitals in Turkey during the Crimean War. Unfortunately, she is sent home early due to a bit of gossip and questionable morals.
Once back in England, Catherine immediately looks for work in London hospitals. Doctors continually tell her no because she’s a lady, a daughter of a baronet; they wouldn’t want to frighten her feminine sensibilities. Only one doctor, Michael Soames, is willing to recommend her for work. He worked with Catherine in the field hospitals. He knows her devotion to healing and hard work, and he also loves her, in spite of her betrothal to another and the fact that she is far above him socially. He grudgingly recommends her to the administrator of St. Luke’s, even though it means he will have to work with her on a daily basis. Catherine is grateful and in return takes advantage of her position in society to try and raise money for St. Luke’s, one of the poorest hospitals in London. She also tries to help her betrothed, Julian, who is really no more than a childhood friend, try to overcome lingering depression from wounds received in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. On top of all that, she must avoid the advances of the odious Sir Ronald.
At first I did not enjoy this book. Schroeder starts the book in England and within paragraphs flashes back to scenes in the Crimean War. These flashbacks are long italic sections, and the transitions between scenes are frequent but not always smooth. Fortunately for the reader as the story continues the flashbacks become less frequent, the transitions smoother, and the story builds to a very engrossing tale with extremely enjoyable characters.
Catherine is the antithesis of the TSTL heroine. She knows what she wants and won’t take no for an answer. At the same time she does not go to ridiculous lengths to hide her work and does not keep it a secret from her father. Also, when facing a problem outside of her realm of expertise, she turns to her friends. She trusts people to help her and unburdens herself, preventing the dreaded big misunderstanding. Best of all, a reader can identify with Catherine. She isn’t too good to be true, she gets tired, and even when she tries her best she sometimes makes mistakes.
Michael at first is a typical male of his time period and tries to shield Catherine’s delicate sensibilities, but when he sees she can handle blood, dirt, and hard work he accepts her. He doesn’t belittle her talents and defends her abilities. He always trusts Catherine and even though he doesn’t think he’s good enough for her, he’s never cruel in his attempts to push her away.
As well as having great leads, this book features delightful secondary characters. Catherine’s father, Sir Everett is quite oblivious and often tries to bluff or bully his daughter to do his will, but when push comes to shove and the villain tries to manipulate him, Sir Everett shows that he is a devoted father. He may not understand Catherine but her well-being always comes first. He, like Michael, has almost all his social prejudices crumble as he learns from his daughter and her friends.
More Than a Dream is a character-driven novel that deals more with prejudice amongst England social classes than the battlefield. The story is slow to take off, but once it does the reader will not want to put it down. And if you’re like me you’ll be eagerly awaiting the tale of Catherine’s friends Jeffrey Bancroft and Lucinda Harrowby in True to Her Heart.