Release Date: 28 February 2023
Rating: 2.5/5 (book)/ 5/5 (narration)
Synopsis: Hazel Sinnett is alone and half-convinced the events of the year before—the immortality, Beecham’s vial—were a figment of her imagination. She doesn’t even know whether Jack is alive or dead. All she can really do now is treat patients and maintain Hawthornden Castle as it starts to decay around her.
When saving a life leads to her arrest, Hazel seems doomed to rot in prison until a message intervenes: She has been specifically requested to be the personal physician of Princess Charlotte, the sickly daughter of King George IV. Soon Hazel is dragged into the glamor and romance of a court where everyone has something to hide, especially the enigmatic, brilliant members of a social club known as the Companions to the Death.
As Hazel’s work entangles her more and more with the British court, she realizes that her own future as a surgeon isn't the only thing at stake. Malicious forces are at work in the monarchy, and Hazel may be the only one capable of setting things right.
Immortality: A Love Story is the eagerly anticipated sequel to Dana Schwartz's bestselling gothic romance, Anatomy: A Love Story.
Where Anatomy: A Love Story was feminist historical fiction with a touch of romance and a hint of fantasy, Immortality: A Love Story is…well, all over the place. It’s certainly feminist, but the historical and romantic aspects of it are muddled and take liberties with history that make it less engaging than Anatomy. We get to know Hazel a bit better under more pressure than the last book, and the ending of the previous book factors in heavily into the plot. It starts off incredibly slowly, incorporates waaaay more sociopolitical commentary (to the detriment of the plot), and just plain misses the mark that Anatomy hits so often. I read until about 14% on the eARC and got stuck with it, putting it down for nearly a month or so, until I was granted access to an ALC with a pleasant narrator, which helped me get through the rest of the story. I wasn’t pleased at all with this book, and I feel I only finished it because I had it on audio.
This book starts nearly directly after the last one finished, with only about a year to show the effect of Jack’s absence and the heavy loneliness Hazel experiences in her profession as a woman doctor. She has become incredibly skilled, and the community around her and quite far off know about her talent and come to her for medical help. Eventually, as the synopsis states, she is incarcerated for providing medical attention to a woman who has poisoned herself in order to abort her baby. For this, she spends some time in prison and is sentenced to death until she unexpectedly finds herself free and now the royal physician of Princess Charlotte, the granddaughter of George III.
The book picks up the pace a bit while Hazel is at the palace. She meets several historical figures and receives an invitation to join a secret society full of even more historical figures. We find out what happens to Jack after Hazel forms an attachment to a Swedish doctor in residence caring for the insane King George III. Everything plays out like a daytime soap opera, and historical events go out the window in favor of the plot. The whole book seems crammed together with no logical interweaving of the fantastic.
In addition to the history, the synopsis does not quite match the events of the book, either. I did not get the impression that Hazel questioned her sanity in terms of what happened at the end of the last book. There was an anxiety about the safety of her friend, certainly, but not thinking anything did not really happen. Though Charlotte is indeed the daughter of George IV, he is not the reigning monarch in the book—George III sits the throne, though his Prince Regent rules while he is incapacitated. Charlotte’s fate in the book is completely different from historical fact. Sure, this is okay to do with alternate history, but this book is historical fantasy. The fantasy should give way to the history, not the other way around.
On a positive note, the audio narration was pleasant. While it was narrated in a Scottish voice, I was able to speed it up to 2x because the narration was clear and the words well annunciated. The occasional male narrator was also easy to understand, though his voice was only used for news headlines that sprinkled the plot with context. Overall for narration, 5/5.
While I quite liked Anatomy, Immortality felt very haphazard and rushed. The magical/scientific underworld is not seamlessly interwoven into history. The romance is convoluted. The beginning drags. Even the synopsis clashes with what happens in the book. Overall 2.5/5 for the book. Combined rating of 3.5/5, rounded down to 3/5 for the wonky structure.
My thanks to NetGalley for the eARC and the ALC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.