Guest Post: Elizabeth Hutchinson Bernard

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hi Everyone!

I am excited to be here today to bring you a guest post from Elizabeth Hutchinson Bernard. Please help me by giving her a warm welcome.


Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, author of the historical novel, The Beauty Doctor

I've often heard the advice to authors, "Write what you know." That was a big reason, I suppose, that I first began writing The Beauty Doctor. For quite a few years, I worked in New York City as the Communications and Marketing Director for the nation's oldest and largest professional society of board-certified plastic surgeons who specialize in cosmetic surgery.  I was also the Executive Editor of the group's peer-reviewed journal.  I had the opportunity to learn a lot about modern-day plastic surgery.  I became so inured to the nitty-gritty of plastic surgery, in fact, that I could often be found eating my lunch while reviewing teaching videos of cosmetic procedures---operations like a "circumferential body lift" during which the surgeon could be seen dissecting a huge, yellowish slab of fat from the sleeping patient's abdomen. Yummy, huh?  

But don't worry, you won't find anything too difficult to stomach in my romantic suspense novel, The Beauty Doctor.  That's because The Beauty Doctor takes place in the year 1907, when plastic surgery wasn't even a recognized medical specialty and the operations were much less extensive.  But there was plenty of risk involved. Back then, the entire world of medicine was still a bit like the wild wild West, and so-called beauty doctors were the newest breed of outlaw. They were generally free to do as they pleased, regardless of their training or lack thereof---chiseling noses, pinning back ears, trimming eyelids and injecting wrinkles with paraffin, and often charging hefty fees while delivering results that were not always as advertised.  And yes, they did advertise---in newspapers and sometimes even staging carnival-like public performances to demonstrate their skills.

We may think of "skin care" as a modern phenomenon, but advertisements for skin products abounded in the Edwardian era. This ad from 1905 is just one example.

John Woodbury was a self-trained dermatologist who achieved notoriety and wealth through a chain of cosmetic surgery “institutes” and a proprietary soap and cosmetics line. He sold his product line to Jergens in 1901 for an amazing sum (at the time) of $212,500, also retaining a 10% royalty. But all was not rosy for John Woodbury. A series of lawsuits and other problems ultimately led him to commit suicide, but not before he made history with his entrepreneurial achievements as a beauty doctor. (Source: “The 19th Century Origins of Facial Cosmetic Surgery and John H. Woodbury” published in Aesthetic Surgery

In 1907, the general surgeon Charles C. Miller published his textbook, The Correction of Featural Imperfections, in which he urged legitimate doctors to embrace the field of “featural surgery.” In the course of research for my novel, I obtained a complete copy of Dr. Miller’s book which includes detailed descriptions of many aesthetic   and reconstructive procedures for the ears, nose, eyelids, lips, chin, and a rather simple procedure for the creation of dimples. Dr. Miller claimed to have performed all of these surgeries with generally good results.

Obviously, plastic surgery has come a long way from what it was in 1907.  In depicting the reality of cosmetic surgery at the turn of the century, I tried to show "the good, the bad, and the ugly" at that particular time---a time when outward beauty was still considered a reflection of inner goodness and so had not only social but moral implications for women. But The Beauty Doctor isn't only about plastic surgery.  I thought that one of the recent reviews of my book on Amazon put it very well when the reviewer described the book as "a romance that unfolds within the early history of the modern beauty industry, well grounded in the medical practices and social controversies of the early 20th century. The relationship between a young, idealistic woman and Franklin Rome, the flamboyant surgeon she encounters, is entwined with the surgeon's own mysterious associations; the two threads are knotted together amid growing suspense …" 

One of the concepts at the heart of my book is this: Human beings are capable of seeing beauty in many different ways, just as we all seek meaning in our lives differently.  But because of this, sometimes we lose sight of how much we all are the same---our need to feel that we matter, that we have value, and that we can be accepted for who we really are. And while I would never be so presumptuous as to try to define beauty, when so many others far more insightful than I have failed in their attempts, I hope that readers of The Beauty Doctor will find ample food for thought on the subject.   

The Beauty Doctor is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.  For more about Elizabeth, including her historical fiction-lovers' blog, "Style and Substance," visit   

Thanks for the interesting post! I hope you guys get a chance to check out her book!  

Happy Reading!

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