The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati
Set in New York City in 1883 as the Brooklyn Bridge is going up, The Gilded Hour is the first novel in a new series by historical fiction author Sara Donati.
Anna Savard is a surgeon, one of a very small number of women in that role. She is called in to examine a group of orphans for signs of smallpox, and she meets a family of four children who have just lost their mother. Two these orphans go missing in a chaotic day at the docks, and she feels compelled to help reunite these siblings. In the process, she meets detective Jack Mezzanotte, and sparks begin to fly...
Anna's cousin Sophie is also a doctor, an obstetrician, and is the daughter of free people of color. Because of the discrimination she has faced her whole life, she continually refuses to marry childhood best friend and suitor Cap Verhoeven, who is now dying of Consumption. Her medical practice often takes her into the homes of women in difficult circumstances, and her attempts to help them make her the focus of Anthony Comstock, a crusader against contraception.
It's hard to do a 700 page historical novel justice in a few pages -- there is just so much detail, and it's clear that Donati has throroughly researched the era. At the same time, the historical detail is deftly woven into a compelling tale of family, romance, medicine, and even mystery, so that it is never dry. I started listening to this on audio, ended up switching back and forth between the print and the audio because I just didn't want to put it down, finishing the whole thing in 4 days.
Readers should be aware that this is the first in a series, and the ending will leave them anxiously awaiting the sequel.
Readers who enjoy The Gilded Hour should definitely check out Sara Donati's first series, beginning with Into the Wilderness. (And for those who have already read the earlier series -- they are connected -- Anna and Sophie are descendants of characters from that series). And any review of detailed historical fiction about strong women who practice medicine would be incomplete without mentioning Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.