REVIEW: Carry On (Mysterious Powers Book 1) by Celia Lake
Enjoy this kind and gentle historical fantasy romance set in the magical community of Great Britain during the Great War.
Elen has a nurse’s hands.
Sent home from the Front after a injury leaves her with ongoing headaches, Elen is desperate to do her part for the War effort. Assigned to a mysterious patient, she wants to help him recover.
The Temple of Healing should be a sanctuary. But when Elen tries to find out more about her patient, she can’t get any information. His files aren’t available, and no one will answer her questions.
Roland has no hope for change.
He has been locked away in a hospital room for months, with an ever-changing set of nurses. No one seems to care what happened to him, even his family. His only apparent use is to give rousing speeches to encourage others to go off and fight in what Roland knows is a horrific mess.
When Elen appears, he’s sure nothing will change. Slowly but surely, her determination and stubbornness shines through and knits his world back together. She’s willing to take risks to find out what happened to him, and he finds himself agreeing to her suggestions for healing – even a sacred bath.
It becomes clear that all is not what it seems at the hospital. With help from a few friends, unmistakable blessings, and a little luck, they might just be able to untangle what’s going on together.
Dear Ms. Lake,
Yes, this is another book which I investigated due to the cover. It’s an offshoot of the “Albion” magical series (none of which I’ve read) but there’s enough told about the world and the magic that I didn’t feel too lost. Newcomers might want to read the information at the back of the book that explains the world and how it works.
Therapeutes Elen Morris was injured while on duty in France and her recurring migraines have made working at the front, with all its artillery explosions, too challenging for her. Now she’s reporting to a medical complex in Wales for reassignment. She’s gotten the impression that her superiors would rather push her off to a quiet, rural hospital but Elen knows she can do more. Her new situation is odd though. The patient was injured a few months ago and she will be working only with him. From looks, whispers, and what little she’s been told, he’s had several nurses before her. She’s also told almost nothing about his injuries or care plan and her repeated attempts to see his chart and talk with his Healer, or even the Healer’s juniors, come to nothing.
Major Roland Gospatrick is from an upper crust family with a long history of military service and magic. His disillusionment with how the war is progressing and his horror at the carnage started before his injury. Now he exists in a fog, basically bed bound except when he’s trotted out to recruitment meetings or to answer questions from military men. Mostly he just gets dosed with potions (he’s learned he has no say in refusing them) that leave him out of it. When a new nurse appears, he’s indifferent as he’s sure she’ll be gone as quickly as her predecessors.
Elen’s unease about how different this case is worries her but she has little power and her questions aren’t welcome. She manages to institute a few changes and tries to figure out the pecking order but from what she’s seen, the medical treatments are doing the Major little to no good even while his superiors are insisting that he must get better quickly and continue the grueling meetings they foist on him. Slowly, her attention to his care and practical common sense begin to win Roland over. But can they figure out why he remains trapped in the hospital and by the treatments?
Reading other reviews – the words “low key,” “gentle,” and “calm” are frequently used and I think are right on the nose. The book is mainly (first) Elen and then Elen and Roland struggling against the system and trying to discover what is going on. I enjoyed watching dedicated nurse Elen do her utmost to help her patient in the face of apparent official stonewalling and disinterest in him getting better. Elen is skilled, observant, and not afraid to (gently) push while she does what she can. Roland has months of indifference to his well being making him a little cranky though he maintains his politeness to Elen.
The story unfolds slowly, giving plenty of time to explore the Temple of Healing, the religious aspects (Healers and Therapeutes pledge themselves to whatever deity they feel most close to), and the magic. Not everyone has wowza magic and I was a bit disappointed in how little there actually is on page. I would have thought that in the hospital, some of the grunt work done by orderlies would have benefited from some. Later on though, there was a teensy bit more that showed up. I enjoyed watching Elen nursing and seeing this (Magical) precursor to what I’ve read in Betty Neels nurse books – ward sisters and matrons with sleeve covers, caps, and watch fobs who take no guff.
Though this is a magical alternative England, care has still been taken to make it historically realistic in feel down to the (seemingly) endless knitting that Elen does at times when her hands are otherwise not occupied. Really, there’s a lot of knitting going on. A lot. Once she’s got Roland a bit undrugged, he joins with Elen in trying to solve the mystery of what the heck is going on. They are methodical and dogged. Things got repetitive as they explained their concerns and findings to other characters. And then repeated all this to still more characters. And then to still more characters. We get to read All About It each time. My eyes began to glaze at this and the knitting. The (sweet – just kisses) romance also developed quite quickly.
Although Elen and Roland are the ones who begin to piece together what is happening, the denouement takes place off page. I wanted an “Ah ha, you dirty bastard!” confrontation moment that I never got. Still the world building intrigues me and the next book sounds interesting. I guess I just need to adjust my sights and expectations. B-