This book fell into my hands and other than knowing it was a historical romance, I didn’t know much about it when I started to read it. What a delightful surprise I got! I didn’t realize when the series was called ‘Mad Passions’ that the mad part was meant literally.
This was the third book in a series of historical romances that are loosely tied together with at least one of the characters of each book associated with being in a madhouse or diagnosed as mad. On a side note, I read this one out of order and had no trouble so it could be read as a standalone or read before the others in the series.
I’ve always been fascinated in a macabre pitying angry sort of way when it came to the way insanity and people who were deemed insane were treated throughout history. Reasons to be declared insane and what happened to people locked up as insane were wild and varying. Treatments were bizarre and torturous leaving a person’s sanity gone in the end if they weren’t insane from the beginning.
In the case of this story, Viscount Powers was placed into a madhouse by his father to be treated for his addiction to opium and his dangerous need for it. The earl is taking drastic measures to restore his son and one of them involves employing the revolutionary ideas of an Irish woman who nursed men in the Crimea and now takes on the medical cases of the men who didn’t come back from the war unaffected.
Lady Margaret Cassidy left famine-ravaged Ireland behind after the deaths of her sorrowful and down-trodden parents and she never looked back. Margaret boxed up all her feelings and put them behind a strong emotional wall where they couldn’t hurt or weaken her. She still cares very much for her people and does what she can through aid and what money she can give through her nursing job of the English soldiers. Her latest medical case threatens to topple her with the onset of feelings she has when she encounters her grief-stricken patient. James Stanhope, Viscount Powers, is a challenge. He lost his wife and daughter and has no desire to carry on his life normally without them. He definitely has no plans to cooperate with Margaret by letting her dig into the core of his grief and bring it to light so he can begin healing from it.
Besides the desire to make Powers whole again, Margaret is given a shocking proposition from James’ father that at first she negates, but then when her brother comes to her with more trouble, she is forced to accept the Earl’s request. He wants her to marry his son, help him beat his addictions and then give the Earl an heir. In exchange, she will have money and influence to help her people including her brother. Margaret is determined to treat the situation she finds herself in like any other patient- nurse relationship, but Lord Powers defies her abilities to remain detached at every turn. He challenges her even as he accepts her challenge in turn. Who is helping whom more and at what risk?
This is a marriage of convenience plot, but it was written in such a way that it was unique and new. The story is naturally of a darker nature due to James’ issues with grief, anger and addiction and Margaret’s background of having grown up through the Irish Potato Famine and being Irish amongst the English.
The characters and their situation were drawn with depth and understanding. It’s not just about the romance and passion though there is that too. Things take their time coming to the point so the reader has to exhibit some patience with the pacing. The relationship between them is complicated and hard too because they must slide between nurse-patient and husband-wife. James has encountered and participated in most vices so he is more jaded, but he is also more open and honest too. Margaret for all her experience with hard realities is repressed and innocent. She tries to carry herself with detached aplomb, but is soon confronted by her own hypocrisy for her denial when James holds up a mirror so she can see her own issues. The crisis comes when James gives her an ultimatum that comes down to whether she will open herself to him or continue to hide herself from him.
I found it all engaging and refreshingly different from most of the historical romances I have read recently. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and seeing their development personally and toward each other. The side story about her brother was of interest too.
I would definitely recommend this one to those who enjoy historical romance and are in the mood for something a little darker and grittier.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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