IN THE HEART OF PARADISE | Kirkus Reviews
It is September 1891, and Anna Gallagher Chambers is excited about an upcoming meeting with Fay Fuller at the base camp of Mount Rainier to discuss the women’s mountaineering team they hope to form. Readers of the series opener will remember Fay as the first woman to scale the formidable mountain. But now Anna has a problem. She is pregnant and wonders whether she will be allowed to travel to the base camp. And, not incidentally, she worries about what other cherished activities society will force her to give up when she becomes a mother. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Grayson is suffering two setbacks. Levi Gallagher, Anna’s brother, has broken off their courtship—by telegram, no less. And the Grayson family physician, Dr. Glazier, is trying to discourage her from becoming a nurse. He knows she sometimes exhibits obsessive-compulsive behavior (for examples, double- and triple-checking locked doors), although she has tried to keep it hidden from everyone. With misogynistic pomposity, he points out that nursing involves unexpected situations that might unsettle her mind, suggesting that she look for a husband instead. Then he gives voice to her greatest fear: “I certainly wouldn’t want you to end up in the Washington State Hospital for the Insane at Fort Steilacoom.” But Elizabeth, despite her insecurities, has an inner strength and determination that become increasingly apparent as the story develops. The entertaining narrative can hold its own as a stand-alone, although newcomers will need some time to sort out the recurring characters and their backstories. Major underlying themes remain the same: society’s implicit and explicit denigration of women and the vicious racial prejudice directed against the Native Americans who were pushed off their land during the development of Seattle. To this, McGillen adds turn-of-the-century perceptions and misconceptions about mental disorders. An uncomplicated plotline is enhanced by an abundance of historical tidbits and vivid descriptions of period fashion, lifestyles, and mores.