Born into world as mere chattel, Carrie Scott rebels against the oppression women are dealt in 1897 Philadelphia the only way she knows how—by hiding under layers of black mourning clothes worn for a fiancé she respected but did not love. Freedom from the marriage auction block allowed her the quiet she needed, but the lonely life eventually made her body yearn for more.
Dr. Matthew Gibson was floored to see his best friend’s little sister standing in his office, now the full fledged beauty he had always expected her to become. But the fact she was asking to be treated for “Female Hysteria” made his fingers itch to touch her and claim her as his own.
Neither knew that the one afternoon in his office would change their lives forever.
Taking a deep breath, as deep as could be in her blasted corset, Carrie tried to calm her nerves. She sat down on the edge of the thick leather armchair across from his desk. Sunlight streamed across the room, creating a halo of sorts around Dr. Gibson’s head, making his face impossible to see. It somehow made the words easier for her to speak, not being able to clearly perceive his face.
“Mrs. Granger came to visit me last week…and told me of…a procedure…you perform here in this office. She says it…helps her. Relieves her in some way. I believe she told me she suffers from…Female Hysteria.”
She paused, unable to continue without knowing he heard her words, she needed a response from him before she could continue, but he sat there, unmoving. Carrie wasn’t even sure he breathed he was so still. Long seconds passed, it felt like hours in the silence of the room, but could have not been longer than a minute.
“You know that I cannot discuss Mrs. Granger’s medical history with anyone else, it would be against the doctor’s oath.”
“I am not asking you to discuss her treatment. She has been rather candid with me herself. But…”
“After speaking with her…I fear…that perhaps…I too suffer from this Female Hysteria.”
She waited for his response, some form of validation to her concerns, embarrassed beyond belief to speak all of her thoughts to him, this beautiful man who had sat at her father’s table and broken bread with them, who had seen her as nothing but a child for years, asking for help, help to quell the maddening voices in her head, and ease the suffering of her woman’s body.
“And why do you think you suffer from this malady?”
“Well, I’m often feverish, my skin feels… too tight at times, like I might burst at any moment. And I have thoughts no lady should have.”
Fire filled Carrie’s face as she considered the thoughts she had just had in this office, how she had enjoyed the sensual nature of his voice and let his tenor rumble through her. “It is nothing a real lady would say out loud.”
“But I am a doctor, and I can’t determine if you truly suffer from this Hysteria or not unless you are completely honest with me. I need to hear it, Miss Scott, so tell me what unladylike thoughts you have had.”
“I was just standing at your window, imaging myself running barefoot across the park, my hair unbound and flying behind me as I raced. I have sat in my family’s parlor and thought of taking my corset and burning it in the fireplace. I’ve thought of taking my clothes off and jumping into the pond behind our orchard when the moon is full and bright, shining through the trees. I’ve thought about…”
Carrie stopped before she admitted to thoughts of touching her own body. The erotic images flooded back into her head, her own fingers pinching her nipples, squeezing the ripe mounds above her ribcage. Heat rose in her cheeks, the desire to touch herself almost overwhelming her.
Dr. Gibson leaned forward, his hands steepling on the desk as he rested his elbows on the wood. His face was still in shadow, and she was glad. He was anonymous, as if he really was not there. She thought of the Catholics and their confessionals, and wondered if any of the women had ever sat in the darkened little closets and told the Father they had the unclean contemplations of touching their bodies. “And have you performed any of the acts you have thought about?”
Posted by Grace on 26th Apr 2012
I loved this story, with the whole female hysteria part. It was amazing! Especially with all the stuff in the news about women's health. Seeing where women were a hundred or so years ago makes you realize how far we've come.
Would love to see her best friend in a story of her own.
Posted by Bittersweet on 25th Jan 2012
A 3.5 Star Review
Delightfully improper. That’s what came to mind as I became engrossed in Alexandra O’ Hurley’s novel, Being Improper.
The story begins with a number one major no-no for society: a forbidden doctor-patient relationship. Carrie is a sweet young girl, too smart and too outgoing for her time period, who thinks she has female hysteria. When she goes to visit handsome Dr. Mathew, sparks ensue. The building of anticipation between them and what would happen was craftfully written; I was on the edge of my seat as the doctor drew out his remedy for Carrie.
Carrie and Mathew are sweet characters, especially Carrie. She really tugged at my heartstrings. She’s sort of naive but with a curious and kinky streak that made her endearing. I specially loved her curiosity for the male anatomy (the scene in which she performed a hand job was fun, erotic and very visual).
Mathew is a kind, good man, who’s terribly in love and doesn’t know how to show it. He didn’t come off as your usual dominant, aggressive male alpha. He staked his claim on Carrie but in a more desperate, love sick, intellectual way. He was a man willing to do anything to make the woman he loved happy.
Though she was a secondary character, Carrie’s best friend, Etta and her prying, knowing ways made me laugh more than once. She was a great addition to the story!
Though it was part of the plot and Carrie’s emotional baggage, I didn’t like the family drama. It was a nuisance to have that big secret revealed almost at the end of the story, when the characters could have lived happily ever after. However, the description of the family feud was well crafted and Ms. O’ Hurley did succeed in making me hate Carrie’s brother and father.
Being Improper is a quick hot read with a sweet ending that will leave you with a smile.
Posted by Luta Wolf on 25th Jan 2012
Carrie Scott has always done what is asked of her, putting joy and life aside for what is proper. More and more it becomes harder to handle. She hears about the treatment for female hysteria, and is determined to try it. Dr. Matthew Gibson is more than willing to treat Carrie. If this is the only way he can reach her, the woman he loves, than he will take it.
While the characters are set in a time period with a strict code of conduct, they manage to bend to the rules. The author did an amazing job of writing characters true to the time and yet keeping them refreshing. Carrie isn’t a simpering woman that only want to do a man’s biding. She may have to follow the rules but she looks for the loopholes.
Matthew isn’t interested in Carrie because everyone else is. He isn’t looking at her to rise in society but instead is drawn to her for her vitality and life. This is a historical romance, the plot is out of the ordinary and quickly grabs attention because of the female hysteria aspect. Considering the creativity, I was surprised by the writing style, honestly it made the book all the more riveting. It’s an easy but good read that historical romance fans are sure to enjoy.
Posted by April on 25th Jan 2012
Being Improper by Alexandra O'Hurley is a great historical romance. The plot is very different from other historical romances because of the female hysteria aspect. I love that doctors actually thought this was an illness and one needed a doctor to cure it, especially if that doctor was young and handsome and an amazing hero. From the moment Carrie walks into his office, Matthew, cannot stop thinking about her. He thinks she is beautiful and has had a crush on her for years.
Carrie is quite intrigued with Matthew and always has been. She never knew of his feeling toward her, but it is apparent immediately they have a connection and just need that one little incident to make them see it. That happens when Carrie's father sends her away to a sanatorium and Matthew has to save her from being stuck there and save her from her family. I would have loved for the story to have been a bit longer, but it was a nice quick read (70 pgs.) that any historical romance reader would love!
Posted by Virginia on 3rd Dec 2011
Carrie Scott was engaged to a man who died before they could marry. Rather than risk ending up back on the marriage block, she still wears her mourning black, but her spirit longs for freedoms that society will never grant her. What is wrong with wanting to run barefoot through a park with your hair streaming behind you? In an attempt to cure her wandering thoughts and restless spirit, she seeks help from her brother’s friend who is now a doctor, Matthew Gibson.
Dr. Matthew Gibson has long admired the beautiful younger sister of his friend. When she asks him to treat her “female hysteria,” he is tempted to risk everything for a chance to touch her. Will his daring reap rewards that neither could have dared imagine? Or is it a mistake…
Secondary characters, like Carrie’s family, keep this story going as they heighten the conflict in this intriguing historical story. Carrie is forced to choose between that which is expected of her and that which she desires. And the medical treatment of “hysteria” at the time was enough to awaken almost anyone’s passionate nature…
Having recently read about the medical opinion at the time and how they treated this common female ailment (hysteria could be defined as anything from restless thoughts to depression), I was thrilled to see how the author would handle this topic. I wasn’t disappointed. O’Hurley crafted a sexy romp that was historically accurate in the mindset at the time if the romance between the main characters seemed a bit dramatized in their emotional involvement. The passion was believable and literally leapt off the page. A fun read on a fascinating topic.