OLT's Reviews > The Madness of Miss Grey

The Madness of Miss Grey by Julia Bennet
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really liked it

(3.5 stars) What I like about this HR is that the story line is one that's much less used by HR authors, possibly because it's a bit dark, dreary, and somewhat of a downer. It deals with possible madness and the inept, incompetent, ignorant and often cruel treatment of those in mental institutions. I have read a few HRs in my lifetime dealing with this issue. Maire Claremont (aka Eva Devon) had a dark Victorian series 6 years or so ago, beginning with THE DARK LADY. And more recently, Mimi Matthews touched on the issue in her THE MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT. I've read other books also, but no authors or names come to mind at the moment.

This new book by Julia Bennet has good intentions, even if not always with completely satisfactory execution of the subject matter. Her writing, however, is better than average, the main characters, especially the hero, are interesting, and the romance believable, albeit a bit too insta-love for me. (But it must be said that the sexual intimacy was delayed in the story appropriately to the situation.)

What we have here as basic plot is a young woman who, at the age of 16 and after the death of her actress mother, is institutionalized by her father, a man she does not know and who was never married to her mother. It is assumed that he is rich or important and wants his little indiscretion hidden away from the public eye. So poor Helen Grey has now spent 10 years at Blackwell House, a private insane asylum in Yorkshire run by a Dr. Sterling, renowned psychiatrist. Dr. Sterling, paid generously to keep Helen at Blackwell, has diagnosed her with melancholia, hysteria, and nymphomania.

Her care at Blackwell ranged from benign neglect on the part of some to outright mistreatment and vile cruelty on the part of others, and no one was actually engaged in real treatment of the mental conditions of the patients locked away. Staff there seemed more interested in making sure the patients were kept locked up, not for their sake, but for the convenience of relatives who preferred them out of sight and out of mind.

But then the new doctor arrives. Dr. Will Carter is the son of the former housekeeper of the estate which now has a new owner and is used as the mental institution. The former owner, the late Sir Clifford, had been Will's benefactor, paying for his education. Now a doctor and "psychiater", Will is back in Yorkshire to work with the famous Dr. Sterling at Blackwell House.

Upon arrival, the first person Will meets up with is Helen Grey, as he and his dog Hector discover her attempting (once again) to escape. Helen is taken back, but Will soon discovers that all is not well at Blackwell. Is anyone there trying to help the patients' physical and mental problems or is this just a prison of sorts? And how can this Dr. Sterling be so indifferent to his patients?

So there you are. Most of the story takes place at Blackwell, where you will meet up with many characters, whether they be doctors (Sterling, Bell, Vaughn, and our Will Carter), the sadistic nurse Fletcher and her cruel "henchmen", the kindly cook and the maid, and a patient or two. There's not much complexity of the characters here. They are either good or not. And some of the bad ones are horrid.

When Will realizes that Helen is as sane as he is and is just being held there at the behest of a wealthy benefactor, he takes it upon himself to find out who this is, supposing it to be Helen's father. This, of course, he does knowing it will probably mean the end of his career, since it is apparent that Sterling and the benefactor have friends in high places.
But not to worry, my friends. There will be a happy ending. But, although happy endings are a must-have for me in HRs, this one came about too easily at the end. A new character shows up at perhaps the three-quarters mark who serves as a "deus ex machina" for everything to turn out fine.

I also had a question or two about the logistics of one major action Will takes to give Helen his protection, not sure if in actual fact he could have done what he did. However, one protective measure involving his dog Hector was charming and I enjoyed the budding relationship between Helen and Hector, one that got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the story.

So I have some nitpicks about the story but to mention them would be spoilers, I fear. One I can mention is that I found it hard to believe that Helen could have retained her sanity after 10 years at Blackwell, where she was subjected to what can only be described as emotional, mental and physical torture. I might have believed this to be possible if the length of her stay there had been shorter.

But, all things considered, the story was better than most new HRs I've read lately. So 4 stars in the hopes that this author will be encouraged to greater heights for Books 2 and 3, to be released at later dates. The tentative titles are THE RUIN OF EVANGELINE JONES and THE TALENTED MR. ELLIS.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June, 2019 – Finished Reading
June 15, 2019 – Shelved

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