Title: The Gentleman’s Madness
Author: Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
“An imprisoned heart finds escape in forbidden love. ”
No pride. No privacy. No hope.
Academic John Gilliam thought being caught embracing another man was the worst that could happen. Until he agrees to “treatment” at an asylum, where a vicious attack leaves him shaken and afraid.
But having all means of writing or reading taken from him… “That” is a serious threat to his sanity. Then a moment of kindness from an asylum attendant begins to restore his dignity.
Sam Tully feels sorry for the patient everyone calls “the professor,” but with a back injury that cost him his job on the docks-and without the education that would have bettered his position-he tries to keep his head down, and a tight lid on his attraction to men.
As John prays for freedom, he grows closer to the gentle, innately intelligent Tully. In spite of themselves, forbidden attraction leads to touches, kisses, and more. But there’s something other than curative treatments going on at the asylum. When John and Tully uncover a heinous conspiracy, their very lives are in danger.
Warning: Contains heinous crimes and frightening treatments-oh, and some sweet and loving sexy times between two healthy, not-crazy men.
Think Maurice, but in an insane asylum.
Cambridge graduate John Gilliam has been committed by his rich father to the Fairpark asylum to cure his unnatural urges. Lower-class Adam Tully is working as an attendant at Fairpark to earn enough money to buy his own ailing father a home for his waning years.
Unlike the egotistical and narrow-minded doctors at Fairpark, however, Tully is gentle and compassionate. He is the go-to guy when a disturbed patient needs soothing. Tully, unlike Gilliam, has successfully suppressed his illegal desires, and seeks only to care for the inmates as best he can.
Until he meets John Gilliam.
The classic British tradition of crossing class lines for love is alive and well in The Gentleman’s Madness. The expert team of Dee and Devon offer their readers chilling insight into the mental health practices of late Victorian England. The carefully outlined details of life in the madhouse, as well as the appalling treatments that were presumed to be effective in curing nervous disorders, suggest that the authors did their homework.
Oddly enough, Fairpark Asylum reminds me of Dr. John Seward’s upscale asylum in suburban London in Dracula; all medieval torture disguised as modern-day medicine. Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 novel is in essence a metaphor for the survival of evil in spite of scientific discovery and modernization.
But at Fairpark, the fearsome monster is no ancient vampire, but simply the human condition that Havelock Ellis charmingly described in 1896 as “sexual inversion.” Thus The Gentleman’s Madness becomes its own kind of metaphor for the survival of love in the face of cultural bigotry and blind faith in the infallibility of scientific method.
It is no mean feat to create a tender romance in the context of the social and medical nightmares that homosexuality could trigger in the late 1880s. To show the burgeoning feelings of affection between two men, fully aware of the risk their feelings posed for them, takes a delicate touch. Dee and Devon create intense, loving portraits of these two men, drawn to each other at first by the need of one to care for a wounded soul; but later by the growing mutual attraction that, were it to be noticed, would endanger both of their lives.
While there are bad men in this book, they are not simply evil; this is a world in which good intentions and honorable beginnings can stray down evil paths. The portrayal of Gilliam’s parents is particularly disturbing, because it is clear that they are all but helpless to act in any way other than they do, because of the social pressures and cultural conventions of their class and culture.
All of this makes for plenty of anxiety on the part of the reader, as we watch Tully and Gilliam move inexorably toward the very emotional climax that we, as m/m fiction fans, expect and demand.
The Gentleman’s Madness maintains a period authenticity and a sense of historical precision that makes it a rewarding read, above and beyond the romance. The great nineteenth-century British novels were all romances as well, and Dee and Devon can be proud of their efforts to walk in the august footsteps of Dickens and Trollope.
Keep it up, ladies.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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