REVIEW: While the City Sleeps (The Women of Midtown): (Gilded Age Christian Historical Romance Fiction Set in New York City) by Elizabeth Camden

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Amid the hushed city, two hearts must navigate danger and deception, bound by a love that outshines the stars.

Katherine Schneider’s life as a dentist in 1913 New York is upended when a patient reveals details of a deadly plot while under the influence of laughing gas. As she is plunged into danger, she seeks help from the dashing Lieutenant Jonathan Birch, a police officer she has long admired from afar.

Jonathan has harbored powerful feelings toward Katherine for years but never acted on them, knowing his dark history is something she could never abide. Now, with her safety on the line, he works alongside her through the nights as they unravel the criminal conspiracy that threatens her . . . even as he keeps his deepest secrets hidden at all costs.

Dear Ms. Camden,

I love the fact that our heroine, Katherine, is a dentist working in a clinic that is forward thinking. The owner has hired a diversified staff, lowered his prices, and keeps the office open until midnight all so that the poor/immigrants of the city have a place they can afford, times that fit their working schedules, and staff who often speak their language. As Katherine later jokingly tells Jonathan, she’s probably the only dentist who went to dental school to spite someone but she’s good at what she does and handles her patients’ dental needs with care. Too bad that she overhears something she later puts together with other facts that threatens her life.

Jonathan Birch is the handsome but quiet police officer who is always on hand to walk Katherine to the subway station when she gets off in the middle of his night shift. They chat about nothing while he plies her with luscious biscotti and focaccia which he claims he buys in local stores – though Katherine has never been able to find a nearby bakery that makes chocolate biscotti. When, after hearing about a shipboard fire at sea, Katherine puts two and two together and approaches Jonathan with her information, she becomes part of a police investigation. When the newspaper reveals enough information about the “police source” to put her in danger, Jonathan strong-arms the police and the paper owner to provide protection for her. But who will protect Katherine when she learns the truth about Jonathan.

I can always count on something unique from your books and here it’s a female dentist who works late and a cop who works the night shift. The driving factor behind what threatens Katherine, and so many others in New York City, makes sense given the number of people around the world with similar views and ideas about how to change society. If bombs are what it takes, then bombing is what will be done.

Jonathan is obviously keeping something from Katherine but it turns out he’s got bigger secrets and grudges from his past. He’s escaped from something that has cost him dearly but from which he did want to be free. His lies about it aren’t innocent white ones and he lies to Katherine’s face as well as to his bosses. He also has to deal with a person who gets under Jonathan’s skin and whom Jonathan takes delight in besting. Things can reach the petty level between them but to Jonathan it’s a matter of honor not to let this guy get away with anything.

Katherine freely admits to Jonathan that she’s an open book and doesn’t hide her emotions. She wants to believe the best in people and thinks that everyone deserves to be heard and maybe get a second chance. This makes Jonathan and some of her friends shake their heads but if she gets fooled a time or two while giving someone the benefit of the doubt, Katherine doesn’t mind.

Of course they’re going to clash eventually about their different viewpoints and over how to deal with the situation Katherine finds herself in. Of course Jonathan’s past is revealed just at the worst time and Katherine, due to something in her past, takes it badly. When faced with how she reacts to one man and not another, Katherine has to do some soul searching. She and Jonathan have an exchange about the difficulties each has overcome and that no one wants to win an “I’ve had it worst” contest. Feelings are hurt and it takes each doing some hard thinking to move through and past their conflicts. These conflicts are where the main religious themes of the book lie. Also Jonathan is Catholic and yay for inspie books moving beyond only Protestantism.

Jonathan and his fellow police officers have to crack this case as the villains are trying to hurt and inconvenience as many New Yorkers as possible. But one other person will have to “man up” and put himself at risk to help solve the case. There is a degree of violence in the story. Katherine also learns that even 90 year old grandmothers are tough and gets some strong advice about being willing to let someone do what they feel called to do.

I enjoyed the everyday view of life in NYC in that day and age. It’s alive, vibrant, and filled with normal working people getting on with their everyday lives. Bonus points that it’s all effortlessly worked into the story and not just there to show off research. I’d love to have read some of Katherine’s newspaper columns about night workers. Double yay that the owlets are fine. I would have rioted otherwise. Just saying. My bet is that the next books in the series will focus on some of Katherine’s friends and fellow residents in the fascinating women’s only apartment building in which she lives. I’m looking forward to them. B


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