Rating: 3 stars
MONSTER. The word evokes images of fairy tales and horror. But once, in 1850 Philadelphia, it was actually the term commonly used in physician’s case notes for the victims of fire.
Conflagrations were common in this period—clothing, especially women’s lace, was highly flammable. Once the flesh was destroyed, there was no cure. These unfortunate souls lived out their lives as MONSTERS, secluded away by family. Once burned flesh gives way to contractures, disfigurements to rival even Bram Stoker’s imagination were born. And the hearts of the people inside the shell perished.
Lorelei is one such MONSTER. Born to a wealthy family, disfigured by fire, she fake’s her own death, leaving the world she knows behind—because in her mind…freedom, even if it is a workhouse, is preferable than the life of a shut-in, a burden on her family’s name.
!850’s Philadelphia is an epi-center of medicine. Rival medical schools search in desperation for bodies—cadavers to teach the art and science of anatomy to their medical students. Corpses become so rare, a new profession evolves. Resurrection Men, or body snatchers, dig up the graves of the newly decreased for high pay.
Rory Henry is one of the Resurrection Men. A Scots-Irish Immigrant, he has fought his way off the streets, and into medical school by whatever means necessary. He is not above digging up corpses—he cuts them by day and searches them out by night. These two lives intersect in an explosion of personality-Rory is designated as Lorelei’s surgeon. Entrusted with performing the new operation called The Mutter Flap. Once he sees her face, will the unrequited love die, or ignite?
People are disappearing. Someone has discovered that murder is far more lucrative than grave robbing. And many of the bodies are from Lorelei’s workhouse. Will she be next?
Monster is an interesting story that I found myself eager to find out what happens next. Told back and forth from the perspectives of Rory and Lorelei, this book is a story about two people with somewhat similar backgrounds/circumstances who come together unexpectedly when Lorelei asks for Rory’s help as her sister Molly is very sick. What starts as a doctor patient relationship quickly turns into much more as Rory and Lorelei discover their feelings for each other while there’s a killer on the loose in Philadelphia who’s killing people and Rory starts receiving notes that people close to him are next.
What I enjoyed when reading this book was reading the story from both Rory and Lorelei’s perspectives. I especially enjoyed reading Rory’s chapters because of getting to see him when he’s at work as a doctor. I also loved his chapters because of getting to meet his friends (in particular, I enjoyed his friendships with Charlie and Becca) along with hearing about his experiences as one of the Resurrection Men. His chapters really caught my attention because I found his story interesting and wanted to learn more about him. It was also interesting because I felt like I was hearing a lot of technical terms that doctors use and also felt like I could hear his Scots-Irish accent when he engaged in conversation throughout the book. What I enjoyed about Lorelei’s chapters is learning more about her background and how she came to be in Philadelphia. What you learn about Lorelei while reading her chapters is that she is a victim of burning so severe that her face is disfigured and that she has a terrible past that she would rather forget. Overall when reading this book, the story is told from the perspectives of two interesting characters with a difficult past who are doing the best they can to overcome the odds stacked against them.
What I also enjoyed about Monster was the romance that developed between Rory and Lorelei. Though at times I felt like their feelings for each other came too quickly, I felt like overall they were a good couple that balanced each other out. Rory out of the both of them would make rash decisions based on his feelings while Lorelei was the more reserved/guarded one who thought her decisions through. So whenever anything happened in the story, I felt like Lorelei was the one who was able to help Rory get through them. Not to say Rory never did the same for Lorelei, but I feel like Lorelei was able to hold her own overall better out of the both of them. I also liked that they loved each other despite each of their circumstances and what happened throughout the book. Especially that Rory cared about Lorelei despite her disfigurement as there were people in the story who cared too much and were doing what they could to tear their relationship apart.
There are some aspects of their relationship, however, that I did have some criticism for. I felt like their relationship developed into romance way too quickly for starters. As much as I love the dynamic of their relationship, I definitely felt like their relationship was an instant attraction even though I feel like neither of them needed that in the story. From the moment they met, I felt like they were instantly interested in each other which was why that scene in the carriage happened. And I wasn’t too fond of it just because I didn’t feel like it fit either of their characters with Rory talking about his swearing off of lasses and Lorelei’s dark past that you find out about as the story goes on. So seeing them both instantly interested in each other despite what we learn I find hard to believe as I didn’t feel like it fit each of their characters. I also found it hard to believe how quickly their feelings for each other developed into love and how quickly they were willing to tell each other about their pasts. I get that this story is told from a different time period so romance might’ve been different then, but with how guarded both these characters were around people they didn’t trust, I had a difficult time believing they would open up to each other so quickly.
Another criticism of Monster I have that resulted in me giving this book a three-star rating was the plot of the story. I found the plot overall interesting, but I felt at times like there was too much happening in the story at once. In the beginning, it didn’t seem like too much was going on and the story’s pacing was great. But as Lorelei and Rory’s relationship continued to grow, I felt like more and more things started to happen in their lives. Some examples that come to mind for me that I feel like I can share without spoiling the story too much include when Rory is going digging up bodies and a creature he heard about from his childhood in stories starts making an appearance at his group’s digging sites and he finds out the truth about this creature, the murders that happen of women including someone Rory and his friends know, and Lorelei being given the opportunity to get surgery to change her disfigurement. While I definitely feel like all of these things happening in the story is interesting plot-wise, I feel like when they happen disturbed the overall pacing in the book for me that it started off with. I also feel like some of the moments I mentioned happened way too quickly in the book, making the build-up to finding out how things went disappointing. While I enjoyed these moments in the plot because I found them interesting, I also felt like they were rushed through and not given as much detail as they deserved.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Monster. It was an interesting read for me with unique characters and romance thrown in that while developed too quickly for my liking, I found myself still rooting for it. And while the overall plot in this book didn’t match the pacing of the story and could’ve used more writing to flesh things out, I was still interested in seeing where things went in the story. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a fast-paced read that’s filled with romance, murder, and a story set in a time period different from our own.
I received a digital copy of this book through the publisher on NetGalley for an honest review.