“I want you to want to live, Millicent,” the doctor said, leaning as close to her as the mask would allow. She could see her own desire reflected in his glass eyes.
“Living without you could hardly be called living at all,” she whispered back.
I think it’s safe to say that Plagued By Love by Johanna James is THE BEST book I’ve read all summer. Honestly when I finished the last page I knew immediately that I had to write a blog review on it ASAP because this book deserves all the praises a girl can heap on it.
Plagued By Love is a stunningly raw story about Millicent, a young woman in 1637 France who is struck by the bubonic plague after her lover- a local farm boy- contracts and dies from it. Her father uses the last of his money to hire on one of the famed plague doctors, Doctor Trudeaux, hoping that this enigmatic man can save the life of his only child. As Doctor Trudeaux works countless hours to treat Millicent, he finds himself slowly falling for the woman- whose beauty shines through even the most gruesome of her pustules. Can the doctor save his patient before death takes her away from him? And can Millicent overcome the loss of her farm-boy lover and see the doctor for the man he is under the mask?
Though the book is long (at 974 pages, yikes!), every sentence was so beautifully written. An article I recently read praised Johanna James as being a ‘[true][poet] and [eloquent] writer” which could not be more true.
I love how she played with the idea of masks- be it masking ones feelings or literally wearing them- to highlight the depth and layers of Doctor Trudeaux and Millicent’s relationship. It really made me think about what it means to know someone and to see them for who they really are.
One of the most beautiful (and heartbreaking) parts for me was the last chapter, when Millicent dies (oopsy, spoiler alert!!!). Here’s a little excerpt:
Doctor Trudeaux threw back his head and released a single cry, his pain coursing through every single one of his many bones and ligaments. This pain was such a deep pain. It went deeper than anything he had ever felt before, because this pain was not a physical hurting sensation. No. It was worse. It was an emotional pain that sucked the very life and soul out his whole entire being and self that comprised him and made him who he was. It hurt. On such a cosmic level.
He reached down and stroked Millicent’s brow, brushing back the beads of perspiration that had gathered there while she labored through her last breaths. He knew he would have to toss the body out on the street for the cart to pick up soon, but he craved just a few more minutes with her.
He inhaled, letting the dried flowers he had packed into the beak of his face mask fill his senses. This is how he wanted to remember her. In one swift movement he pecked her cheek and let himself dream of a future that wasn’t like this.
10/10 for sure!!!