24 September, 2022

LitStack Review: With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

With Every Breathevery
Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House
ISBN-10: 0764211749
Release Date: August 5, 2014

I have learned…that spiritual courage is of a higher type than physical courage; and that it takes a higher type of courage to fight a losing rather than a winning fight.”

These words, written by Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, encapsulate the theme of Elizabeth Camden’s historical romance, With Every Breath. Trudeau, a late-nineteenth century doctor who treated tuberculosis patients while battling the disease himself, is the inspiration for main character Trevor McDonough.

Trevor, an intensely private, highly intelligent doctor, is one of the leading experts on the research in and treatment of tuberculosis. His goal is to find a cure for the disease that is the leading cause of death in America. Tireless in his pursuit, he needs an assistant who brings as much determination to the fight as he does. The position requires someone with an intelligence and drive to match his own. That’s why Trevor wants to hire Kate Livingston.

His most fierce academic rival during his school years, Kate is the one person he believes has what it takes to join him in his crusade. “I want someone who is fearless,” he admits to Kate. “I need someone who wants to win as badly as I do. That is why I want you for this job.”

Kate’s eager for the challenge but shocked that Trevor has sought her out. He had been cold and emotionless as a young man, and he didn’t appear to be much different now. The fact that he had beaten her out of a college scholarship all those years ago still sat ill with her, but she would not refuse the most exciting and intellectually challenging job of her life simply because she didn’t like the man who would be her boss.

And what if he was right? “What if they funneled all of that competitive drive toward the same goal, throwing every ounce of their combined passion at one of the world’s deadliest diseases?” It was a challenge from which she could not walk away.

Working side-by-side with Trevor in the hospital and witnessing first-hand the passion he brings to the battle piques her curiosity. Kate can’t help wanting to know more about this enigmatic man who she no longer disdains, but has grown to admire. His secrets are legion, and he keeps them as closely held as his emotions, but Kate is no quitter.

She is more determined than ever to solve the mystery of Trevor’s past because somehow, in the midst of their collaborative effort, her heart has become involved. His commitment to medicine, his intelligence, even his dry humor all appeal to her, and in spite of the stern façade he often presents, Kate now knows there is more to Trevor McDonough than she ever imagined.

She also knows how much is at stake. Someone is trying to sabotage Trevor’s work at the hospital—leaking misleading information to the press, leaving mercury on his office desk, planting falsified medical records. Someone wants to destroy Trevor, and Kate’s convinced it’s connected to the past he refuses to talk about.

The war they wage together—against the disease and the smear campaign—draws them closer, uncovering at least one of Trevor’s secrets—his love for Kate. Now that she knows the truth, Kate cannot imagine anything standing in their way.

All of that changes when she discovers documents that reveal Trevor’s most dangerous secret—a secret that threatens everything Kate holds dear. Now she is forced to choose between the safe path and the right one. And in the face of what may very well be a losing battle, Kate must decide whether she has the courage to love when it’s hard.

Elizabeth Camden does a wonderful job of revealing the complexities of this relationship one delicate piece at a time. The conflict between these two fiercely competitive characters is evident from the very first page, and every interaction they have either increases the tension or highlights their compatibility. They are an evenly matched pair—both bringing strength and insight to the relationship in their own unique way.

Trevor is the heartbeat—a solid, unwavering force pushing for answers. He will not rest until he finds a successful treatment for tuberculosis, and he refuses to allow anyone to keep him from his goal. Kate is the soul—the voice of compassion and the conduit through which Trevor connects with the larger community. Together, their impact is tremendous.

Even their weaknesses help balance the relationship and move the plot forward. Trevor’s aloofness seems harsh and unfeeling until his past is revealed. It’s then the reader realizes that he maintains that demeanor to insure others’ safety and his own scientific objectivity.

In spite of Kate’s strength and determination, her fear of loss handicaps her emotional well-being and constrains her relationships. Learning to let go of the fear and trust God with the uncertainties turns out to be the toughest lesson she ever learns.

I’ve only recently discovered Elizabeth Camden’s work, but I’m already a big fan. Not only do her stories always have appealing characters and intriguing plots, but they also present history in a human context that makes the information accessible and interesting. Though I’m not much of a medical history buff, I found myself wanting to know more about the topic and obtaining a greater appreciation for the unsung heroes of medical research.

I highly recommend this book and encourage you to find out more about the author and her other novels by visiting her website.

~Vickie Price Taylor