In 1909, women are not expected to be physicians. But that is precisely what Lucy James is: Dr. Lucy James. Growing up, Lucy never cared about dresses and parties like most girls. Instead, she wanted to help people the way her father, Dr. Henry James, did. So, she studied hard and became a skilled surgeon. In this Historical Romance, Lucy and her father are in Rome just before the great earthquake of 1908 in Messina, Sicily. Desperately wanting to help, Lucy volunteers at a makeshift hospital. There’s only one problem: the town physician, Giovanni Castello, doesn’t want her there.
“Welcome to hell, Miss James,” is the greeting Lucy receives from Dr. Giovanni Castello. From the looks of it, he is right. In a single night, nearly half the population of Messina has been killed. The tent hospital barely has supplies. A broken limb means amputation. Weeks of rain and aftershocks mean a continuous stream of patients. Lucy and Giovanni do all they can to aid the injured, the hungry, and the homeless of Messina.
Gruesome and heart-breaking? Yes. Liz Galvano does a great job describing the gruesome aftermath of the Messina earthquake. The accomplishments of the doctors in this tough situation are nothing short of heroic. With each small accomplishment or failing¾depending on the day¾Lucy and Giovanni grow closer and closer. An ardent friendship built on respect and admiration turns into a beautiful romance with God at the center.
Fortunately for the reader, the romance between Lucy and Giovanni is not confined to the tent hospital and the horrors of Messina. Galvano takes the two doctors to Giovanni’s ancestral home, Casa Bella. It is at Casa Bella that their romance really begins to blossom, with hope for a future. But just when the couple seem to have found their happily ever after, family drama and tragedy strike.
Messina was an enjoyable read. I must admit, I did not know that much about the 1908 earthquake before reading this book. Galvano creates two well-rounded characters in Lucy and Giovanni. Lucy is a great role model for young women. She follows her heart and her dreams to become a surgeon. With her skills, she risks her life¾as well as being gossiped about¾to help others, all the while following God. Giovanni has been an atheist for years¾ much to the disappointment of his devout Catholic family. Lucy’s gentleness and devotion awaken something in Giovanni. He no longer wants to be the angry atheist he once was, but the Catholic gentleman he was raised to be.
I recommend Messina to both Catholics and Protestants alike. Lucy is a devout Protestant, while Giovanni is a Catholic (a fact that deeply disturbs Lucy’s proud father, Dr. Henry James, but not the lovely couple). Their focus is on God and serving those in need: a message that is much needed today.