A caution for readers eager to enjoy the traditional trappings of a gothic historical romance: this novel, like its protagonist, doesn’t always conform. Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove wants to be a doctor, but she is constantly blocked by societal and familial opposition. Only her father, who educates her himself, much to her mother’s concern and brother’s jealousy, wants Louisa to succeed. Shortly after his death, she is tricked into going to Wildthorn Hall, an insane asylum. Now addressed as Lucy Childs, stripped of her clothes and, ultimately, her identity, Louisa must plan her escape and uncover the betrayal that landed her in Wildthorn. While paying proper homage to women of the past wrongly locked away for an “over interest in learning,” Eagland casts just the right amount of doubt about Louisa’s sanity, with the conflicted heroine thrown into further confusion as she slowly falls for the kindnesses of a chambermaid named Eliza. Though predictable on occasion, Eagland’s debut stands out for its well-crafted treatment of an unconventional love affair. Grades 9-12. –Courtney Jones
Since I’m a fan of the movie, The Snake Pit, starring Olivia de Havilland, which is based on the autobiography of Mary Jane Ward, I loved this story. The circumstances of how and why Louisa came to be a Wildthorn and the time period is different but the cruelty of the staff and the very bad conditions of the institutions are the same.
I recommend this book to anyone who like historical fiction and if you haven’t seen The Snake Pit check it out.