Roberta Rich's The Midwife of Venice is the story of a Jewish midwife living in sixteenth-century Venice. Hannah is known far and wide for her gift; the births she assists with almost always result in a healthy babe and a living mother. There is a reason for her success rate, and if it were to become public knowledge her livelihood and her freedom could be taken from her: she'd be branded a witch.
Hannah, though, is willing to gamble when it comes to her family. Her husband Isaac has been taken as a slave and will not be returned unless she can pay a king's ransom. Needing money desperately, Hannah considers a proposition she would normally refuse immediately. A wealthy Venetian man wants her to help his wife birth her child even though Hannah's participation is illegal (Jewish women have been forbidden from assisting in births of Christian children by a Papal edict.)
It didn't immediately occur to me to equate this book with Mother's Day, but reading about Hannah and the lengths she goes to to protect not only her own family but the children she helps bring into the world, it struck me that midwives are an unsung block of heroic women; the account of Renaissance-era birthing made me very happy and grateful for the amenities we are afforded these days, if we want to use them.
Back in the day becoming a mom was an act of bravery; it's so rewarding to read about a woman like Hannah who dedicates her life to making this process a successful one. Hannah's fictional but this book made me contemplate all those in real life who helped us being born, and it also put into my mind all the romances I've enjoyed that include in their story the issues that moms face.
So to celebrate, I want to know your favorite books about moms. I started a list at Romantic Reads and am excited to see your recommendations - I want nothing more than to spend my Mother's Day reading a new-to-me story about a mom and the man who loves her! (While you're at RR, be sure to check out my list of May faves and our conversation with author Jennifer Bernard.)
Happy Mother's Day, and happy reading!
Melanie Murray is the moderator of Romantic Reads, BN.com's all-romance, all-the-time community forum.
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