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Book Review: The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

As I read this book, I thought many times of the theme song and movie to How the West Was Won. During the 1800s in the United States, the West was the great hope of a better life for many people.

My ancestors came west during that time so I've read a lot about pioneers who crossed the plains and climbed the Rocky Mountains. I could hardly wait to read Jody's new novel to see how she portrayed that era.

The Doctor’s Lady is a wonderful read full of everything you expect and more. It's about a young missionary couple determined to set up a mission in the Oregon Country to help the Nez Perce natives. It’s the story about travelers on the Oregon Trail and the hardships they endured, but mostly it’s the story of a couple destined to be together and find love.

Doctor Eli Earnest is a rugged explorer of the West. The Nez Perce Indians want him to buy some of their land and set up a medical clinic and mission. He returns east with two young Nez Perce men in an effort to raise money to do so. However, once he raised the needed funds the Board of Missions won’t let him journey west until he marries.

FYI: The Mission Board during this time really did require those going into the mission field to be married.

Enter Priscilla White, a beautiful woman, who has refused to marry because she is unable to have children, has her heart set on traveling to India to do God’s work. She’s hoping the Board will make an exception in her case and not require her to marry. She is devastated when they reject her petition. But when she’s approached with the idea to marry Dr. Earnest and go with him, she readjusts her thinking and realizes that this may be an answer to her prayers.

FYI: At this time a white woman had never been west of the Continental Divide. Many believed that the West was no place for a lady. The women who had tried to live there were sent home in coffins.

Against Eli’s better judgment, he agrees to marry Priscilla, but promises her that once they arrive in Oregon Country, if she feels she can’t handle the hard life, he will give her an annulment and send her home. Their marriage becomes a business arrangement that will give them both what they want.

However, on their journey they are met with one hardship after another that tests their dedication not only to missionary work, but also to their “business” arrangement. After all this is historical romance.

FYI: This novel was based on the true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. She was lauded as the first white woman (along with Eliza Spalding) to cross the Continental Divide and travel to the far West. Jody Hedlund says about Narcissa in her author’s notes, “Because of her willingness to brave the unknown, she [Narcissa] led the way for many women who would follow in her footsteps on what would later become known as the Oregon Trail.”

Hedlund has done her homework on this novel and it shows in the wonderful imagery and moving story about two people beating the odds and finding love.


Kathi Oram Peterson is the mother of three, grandmother of two and wife of one. She has always loved books, whether she’s reading or writing them. Her novels include The Forgotten Warrior (2009), An Angel on Main Street (2009), The Stone Traveler (2010), and River Whispers (2011).  Blog: and Website:

Photo by Marc Reynolds

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