Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Courage Between Love and Death by Joseph Pillitteri - #review

Elspeth has recently landed a nursing position at the 1901 Pan American Exposition Hospital in Buffalo, New York. This is a big boon for her, but things are not going as expected. She has to navigate mischievous patients, egotistical doctors, rival nurses and prejudices. For an Irish girl with a temper, this is no easy feat. Now President McKinley is coming to visit the Expo and everyone is in an uproar. On the home front, her life is no less hectic as she struggles to put food on the table and look out for her younger siblings.

When the unthinkable happens, it is a turning point, not only for the medical industry and our country’s security, but also for Elspeth personally. With her career and reputation on the line, will she have the courage to overcome the challenges she faces to clear her name and continue to be there for the ones she loves?



And I thought some of my work days were rough?  I've got nothing on Elspeth, who has a really long last name!  Not only does she have to contend with prejudice against women in general (they didn't even have the vote at this point), she also faced the prejudice against Irish immigrants and that of the educated male doctors for the less well-trained nurses.  And that's all before President McKinley is brought into the hospital after being shot at the 1901 Pan American Exposition.

I was spell-bound by Mr. Pillitteri's descriptions of Elspeth's encounters with Gunner, a new intern at her hospital.  Ah, the first blush of young love - the nervousness, the butterflies and blushes; I was smiling the whole time.  It takes strength and courage to be in love.

In places where the author wrote about Elspeth's interaction with Dr. Kingdom.  When the 'haves' (of any sort) belittle the "have nots", it gets my back up, and the little hairs on the back of my neck were fair bristling just about every time Kingdom appeared on the page!  It takes strength and courage to stand up in the face of discrimination.

Reading about the aftermath of McKinley's assassination brought back memories of John Hinckley, Jr.s attempt on the life of then President Reagan in 1981.  Even though most often political rivals squabble like a pack of rabid dogs, even that seems to lessen momentarily as the country 'closes ranks' as it were after the assassination (or an attempt) of a President.  There is a rumor that as he was wheeled into the OR, Reagan looked at the surgeon and jokingly said, "I hope you're Republican", to which the surgeoun replied, "Today, Mr. President, I think we're all Republican."

Of course, in McKinley's time there were nowhere near the medical or security resources available today.  So would he have died from his injuries regardless?  Or was the operation bungled?  Citizens want someone to blame when something like that occurs and it's usually the weakest link that gets the blame.

I spent most of my time reading Courage Between Love and Death on the edge of my chair.  Even thinking about it now raises my heart rate a couple of beats.

I've said more than once that I really enjoy historical fiction based on historical fact (such as McKinley's assassination), or a person of historical interest (past Presidents, for example).  The facts are fleshed out (even though fictionally) and it makes the events more real to someone only able to read about them more than century later.  I definitely want to learn more about the author's other literary adventures!



While working at Roswell Park Memorial Hospital in Buffalo, NY, Joseph Pillitteri became intrigued by the role Dr. Park played in the surgery of President McKinley at the 1901 Pan American Exposition. It was a pleasure to shape facts and fiction together to tell the story.

Previous works by Pillitteri include When the Giraffe Runs Down (Dial Press), Two Hours on Sunday (Dial Press), The Abortion (Penguin Books), and Life Pulse (Penguin Books).




Click on the banner above to go to the tour site, where you will find links to more reviews of this title.  You can also find out how to BECOME A BLOG HOST FOR FUTURE BOOK TOURS while you are there!

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.)


  1. I am so glad that you enjoyed Courage Between Love and Death! Thank you for your great review & for hosting Joseph's blog tour.

    HF Virtual Book Tours

  2. Great review! It makes me feel like reading the book.