Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Beauty Doctor, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard ~ A Book Review

The Beauty Doctor is a work of fiction set in the early 1900's when the medical field was in it's infancy.  Regulatory bodies were not yet in place and quackery abounded.

The Beauty Doctor

It was also a time of social upheaval as well.  Women were just starting to demand attention not only for their family ties, but also for their own inherent worth as individuals.  It was a time when the old and the new were very much at loggerheads with each other and social status was not the defining standard.

Many people  made fortunes selling snake oils that promised all kinds of magical results and often times these potions and lotions were causing some very serious problems. 

European trends on what constituted beauty abounded.  Hence some very unsavory characters who called themselves "Doctor",  managed to make themselves known to those who were wealthy and could afford their services.  Working on these women's weaknesses was what worked for them.  Subtle and sometimes not so subtle augmentation could make a woman feel beautiful and therefore much more attractive to her peer group.  

The Beauty Doctor is the story of a young woman (Abigail), whose father was a decent doctor, and in whose footsteps she had hoped to follow.  She routinely would aid her father when he made house calls and became quite efficient and proficient at many of the tasks she assisted with.  What she needed now was the proper education to continue in her quest to become a doctor in truth.  Alas, such was not to be the case, Abigail's father has died and her mother remarried.  The new step father was not adverse to make lewd advances to his beautiful new step-daughter.

Stunned by this turn of events in her life, she decides to leave home and ask a friend for sanctuary.  Arthur has taken her into his home.  Being part of  New York society at that time, it was only shortly after her arrival in the Hennessy Family that Arthur  knew he would have to propose so that the family could keep their heads held high in their social circle.  Again Abigail's life is taking a turn she did not wish for herself.  She wants to become a doctor and has to find a way to do just that.

At the party to introduce Abigail to the rest of New York society, Abigail finds herself seated next to Dr. Franklin Rome, who is accompanying another wealthy socialite  to this affair.  He has a way about him. ""Beauty is power," Dr. Rome told her. "And with enough power, one can achieve anything."  And here the plot thickens.  Abigail sees a possibility that might just get her out of this engagement and further her own desires.

What follows is a twisting and turning story of her introduction to what we know today as cosmetic surgery.

This book was a very interesting story and you could picture yourself watching these lives unfold.  What lengths some people would go through for their own sometimes perverse ideas of what human beauty should be and look like.  I'm sure you will find it interesting and thought provoking.  So many ideas being put forth by the new medical establishment and funded by those who have the money to do so.  

This book certainly makes you see what was possible in an unregulated profession such as medicine was and why it's a good thing that regulations are in place today. It's a history lesson that I won't forget anytime soon for sure.

For anyone who enjoys historical novels and the development of society as we know it today, this book will surely be a hit.  The Beauty Doctor scores more than 4 out of 5 stars on it's Amazon ratings.

I was given an advanced copy of the second edition by in exchange for my honest review,

I would not hesitate to recommend this as a great book to read and/or enjoy with a book club.  It certainly makes you stop and think!


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Interesting sounding book, Olivia. I had no idea that cosmetic surgery went as far back as the early 1900s. Thanks for introducing this book to me in your review.

    1. It really is quite interesting and there are a few major plot twists in there too!

  2. What an interesting review, Olivia! This sounds like a well drawn portrait of the early days of cosmetic surgery. It doesn’t surprise me that it evolved as a way to prey upon the insecurities and ambitions of wealthy socialites at a time when surface was much more important than substance. Thanks so much for the review and recommendation!

    1. I;m sure you would find it quite interesting. Street waifs and low class were prey for many of these "doctors". Quite scary at times.

  3. You know I love historical fiction, although I already feel sorry for Arthur. I can't help but wonder if Abigail wouldn't have been better off with him regardless since a "beauty doctor" would be a completely different field than a medical doctor who wishes to heal illness. Sounds like a very interesting and unique subject.

  4. I was taken by the title and wondered where it was going to lead me. It was an interesting look at the 1900's and the need for regulatory bodies in this new field. Medicine was still a new subject for many learned people.

  5. Wow, this sounds like a fascinating book! completely interesting review that had me wondering just what kind of quakery took place!

  6. What a fascinating story line!


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