The year 1817 is a modern day filled with incredible discoveries in the fields of science and medicine. But to some, it still feels like a rather backward age.
Lady Hazel Sinnett is one such person.
To be fair, 17-year-old Hazel is something of an anomaly: a young woman of privilege who’s much more impassioned about the possibility of becoming a surgeon than she is about marriage.
It’s not because she has no prospects. The fact is, Hazel is very presentable, and she and her cousin, Bernard—the future Viscount Almont—have been unofficially engaged since they were children.
The idea of healing the human body, however, has always consumed Hazel’s attention far more than things of love. She studies medical textbooks with a fever for understanding. She conducts small exploratory experiments on animal corpses that she finds on her walks. She’s even taken up the task of stitching up small wounds among the household staff.
Her family might not altogether approve, but no matter: Since her older brother died from the Roman Fever, her mother has been overprotective of Hazel’s younger brother, Percy, now heir to their family’s estate. And that’s left Hazel to pursue her medical passions unnoticed, if not altogether unseen.
Of course, it’s still 1817, and Hazel is a woman, and a noblewoman to boot. Her desires for medical appointment are thought ridiculous. Still, she persists: She even dressed up in her deceased brother’s clothes and enrolled in classes at one point. And was at the top of her class, no less. But upon being discovered, she was asked unceremoniously to leave.
The only slim chance Hazel has to become a surgeon is to take the annual Physicians Examination—a rigorous and thorough test that weeds out more than 60% of the bespectacled and black-coated men who dare to try it. She’d needs to take it and pass. But without hands-on surgical practice in a classroom, that would be impossible.
Enter Jack Currer.
When Hazel first met this young man, he seemed to be but one of the unwashed masses in the streets of Edinburgh. But there was something different about him. (Something quite attractive, too, if Hazel was ever so bold to think it.) He even helped sneak her into a public display of surgery staged by the esteemed Dr. Beecham.
It was only later that Hazel learned that this Jack Currer was a “Resurrection Man,” a desperate sort who steals the freshly buried bodies of the dead to sell to the Anatomists’ Society. But the fact is, the anatomists use those bodies to teach physicians in training: the very thing Hazel wishes to be.
Perhaps she and Jack could come to some sort of arrangement. Perhaps Hazel might continue her exploratory studies on her own in an unused room on her estate. Perhaps Hazel might also be able to learn more about this very, ahem, compelling young man.
And Jack is more than willing to accommodate.
What Hazel and Jack don’t know, however, is that their soon-to-be secret arrangement will do more than just tug and pull at the proprieties and expectations of the world around them. Their actions will unwittingly uncover secrets that lay open the beating and bloody heart of Edinburgh society itself.