Thursday, March 03, 2016

Surgeons, Doctors and a new Sarah Mallory novel!

My very latest Sarah Mallory novel, Return of the Runaway, is published next month, so I thought I would give you a sneak preview of the cover.

When I sent Lady Cassandra off to France after her scandalous elopement in The Chaperon's Seduction (Book 1 of The Infamous Arrandales series) I had no idea what would happen to her, only that she would have to come home eventually, having met the love of her life (I am writing romance, after all!)

In 1802 the Treaty of Amiens brought a brief lull in hostilities between Britain and France, but neither side expected it to last. War was declared again in May 1803 and Bonaparte ordered the arrest of all British males between the ages of 18 and 60 in France and Italy. Cassie and her husband were among those detained, but when Cassandra is widowed and wants to return to England, her journey is not straightforward and she needs help. Enter Raoul Doulevant, a surgeon from Belgium who has his own reasons for wanting to leave France.

The story was partly inspired by a book I picked up by chance one day on a market stall. It is called Escape from the French and is the story of Midshipman Maurice Hewson. In 1803 he was captured near Brest and marched to the Fortress of Verdun. Eventually he managed to escape and after a dangerous journey overcoming illness, police, customs officers and inquisitive strangers he reached safety in Austria. The narrative of the rigours of his journey were extremely useful to me in imagining Cassie and Raoul's flight.

Although Return of the Runaway is set more than a decade before Waterloo, it was my research for the famous battle of 1815 that inspired Raoul's character. It was then that I learned about Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, Chief Surgeon to the French Army. Larrey was described by Bonaparte as "The most virtuous man I have known" and even Wellington noticed his courage under fire.  (This is a portrait of Larry on the left, and I think he looks quite heroic, don't you?)
Larry was instrumental in improving the medical support for the army and he also developed the flying ambulance, a light carriage that could be used to transport the wounded away from the battlefield.

Bringing together the granddaughter of a marquess and a Belgian surgeon gave the story an added twist, for at that time surgery was not considered a gentlemanly profession, so Raoul is even less acceptable to Cassie's family than her first husband. Doctors were gentlemen and would be invited to dine with the wealthiest families. They might study Latin and Greek at university and attend lectures on medical procedures, but they rarely had any practical experience - their profession was not supposed to include any manual labour (a gentleman did not do any actual work!).

As a surgeon, Raoul was considered a tradesman because he worked with his hands and actually carried out operations and was paid for his work (doctors too were paid, of course, but discreetly). The role of surgeons had changed in France since the revolution, and it was one of the reasons Raoul went to study at the Hôtel Dieu, a major hospital in Paris. Surgery was also becoming more respectable in England too, and after the founding of the Royal College of Surgeons of London in 1800, it was customary for surgeons to take the examination for Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons and put MRCS after their name. 

So, I had the background for my book and I put Cassie and Raoul through a great deal before they reached their happy ending…. But if you want to know how they achieved it, well, you will just have to read the book!

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
Return of the Runaway – Sarah Mallory. Published by Harlequin April 2016


Winter Inheritance – Melinda Hammond. Out now on Kindle


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

'Return of the Runaway' sounds like a terrific story, Sarah. I've always enjoyed books where hero and heroine are from different backgrounds; I like the possibilities of emotional tension which a clash of assumptions creates. I, too, found Maurice Hewson's 'Escape from the French' useful. In 'The Belvedere Tower', my heroine, co-incidentally also Cassandra, (we obviously share a liking for the name for heroines who escape!) was one of those swooped up when the Peace of Amiens broke down and ended up in Verdun.

I wish you the very best of luck with it.

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

The whole episode of British soldiers & citizens being detained in France is fascinating, Elizabeth, isn't it? So many tales to be woven around it. It has also given me a desire to see Verdun, which I had previously associated with WWI.

These days surgeons are highly respected, so it was interesting to see just how different opinions were in the early 19th century. Cassie's family are horrified at the thought of her marrying an artisan.

And the idea of two Cassandras in Verdun at the same time.... just think what we could do with that!

Thank you so much for dropping by.

Joana Starnes said...

This sounds like a wonderful story, Melinda. Thanks for this great post and for telling us about all those amazing people!

Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Thanks Joana, there is so much more I could say about surgeons & doctors and the medical conditions in the army at that time. It is such a fascinating subject... if a little gruesome!