It’s my very great pleasure to be guest-blogging once again at Pistols and Petticoats. My current release from Love Inspired Historicals, THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE, is the second in my “Brides of Simpson Creek” series. Hero, Dr. Nolan Walker, had been a doctor serving with the famed 20th Maine regiment and had seen all the carnage and death that war can produce. A widower, all he wanted from life after the war was to marry and seek the happiness he lost when his wife and child died before the Civil War.
After befriending a paralyzed Confederate officer and accompanying the latter home to Texas to die, Nolan decided to settle there and began corresponding with Sarah Matthews, a member of the Simpson Creek Spinsters Club, a group of women seeking to bring marriage-minded men to their bachelorless town. The relationship seemed destined for a happy ending until the two met (in the previous book, MAIL ORDER COWBOY, out in November from LIH). As soon as Sarah discovered Nolan was a hated Yankee, she wanted no more to do with him, for her fiancé had never returned from the war-why would she want to be courted by a man who had worn the hated blue? But a Comanche attack has left the town without a doctor, and Nolan stays on as the new town physician.
In my other, non-writing life, I am an emergency room nurse, so I’m pretty familiar with how modern doctors think and act. But to portray Dr. Walker realistically, I had to research the state of medicine in the U.S. in the 1860’s.
Medicine was still appallingly primitive. Medical colleges were still in their infancy, and most doctors learned their trade by apprenticing to an established doctor for a few years, working and living at that doctor’s house. While the first licensing law for doctors was passed in New York in 1806, many states later repealed their licensing laws, so quackery abounded and was not controlled in any way.
To quote Moliere, “Nearly all men die of their medicines, not of their diseases.” This was never truer than in the 1800’s. Most medicines were designed to make one vomit, urinate or defecate, and many doctors still believed in bleeding as a remedy. One of the most-used medicines was calomel, a powerful laxative made of mercury, which killed as many as it helped, yet its use went on.
In true intelligent-hero fashion, my Dr. Nolan Walker didn’t believe in using dangerous medicines like calomel, but he had appallingly few things he could use. The germ theory had just been proposed, and in the story he uses carbolic acid as a wound disinfecting agent, but many times the doctors could only resort to supportive therapy that gave the body time to heal itself. There were few hospitals, no x-rays, no antibiotics. One of the few painkillers was laudanum, an opium-based medicine, but wise doctors also used willowbark tea to relieve pain and reduce fever-for willowbark contains the ingredient in aspirin.
A doctor made house calls in his buggy, and his doctor bag might hold a stethoscope such as the one pictured, lancets, a few basic medicines and instruments. A doctor was expected to be able to handle childbirth as well as amputation-and when faced with treating an insane patient with a hysterical pregnancy, Nolan can only use his common sense. And when faced with an epidemic, as Nolan is in the story, he has to use every bit of his medical training and endurance to save as many as possible in Simpson Creek, especially when the life of Sarah Matthews, who battles the epidemic at his side, hangs in the balance. And then he has no choice but to call in the Great Physician for a consultation.
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Readers can contact me at my website, www.lauriekingery.com
Thanks again to the Petticoats and Pistols Fillies for letting me visit!
Blessings, Laurie Kingery