Author: Summer Devon & Bonnie Dee
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Buy Link:
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 227 pages
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: A good, heartwarming, slow-burn romance set in an environment which riddled me with anxiety.
“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.
I’ll be honest, I was scared going into this book. I had previously read a book which told the story of a gay man being admitted into a mental hospital for treatment. It was one of the most disturbing things I have ever read. I had no interest in putting myself through that much emotional upheaval again. On the other hand, I had also previously read a historical romance co-authored by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee. It was The Gentleman and the Rogue, and I really enjoyed that book. I wanted to read another book by them, so I went into this book hoping for the best. I think I got exactly that.
John is a young man who voluntarily committed himself for treatment after his father caught him with another man. I don’t think he had any confidence the treatment would work, but he was willing to give it a try. At worst he thought he might waste a few months of his life, and at best it would be a way for his family to move beyond the embarrassing incident. Either way, he thought he would go, get the treatment, get out, and then go about his normal life. It wasn’t as simple as he originally thought, and what he found within the hospitals confines was so much worse than he ever expected.
The book begins with John going through the monotonous existence that is daily life for him within the mental hospital. John doesn’t experience any of the nightmarish therapy I had feared. John is mostly kept in seclusion with only brief escapes from his locked room for hydrotherapy treatments. For an intellectual and scholar like John, the lack of human interaction and mental stimulation is enough to drive him to madness. John is starting to lose hope of ever being released when he meets Tully.
Tully is far from being an intellectual, but he is a caring and compassionate man. He is the first attendant John has ever encountered to treat him like a human being worthy of basic rights and respect. Tully also has a little glimmer in his eye which lets John know they may be more alike than different.
The slow build from attraction to love between Tully and John was sweet. I try to avoid using that word but it’s the only word I can think of to describe them. I say that because they went into their relationship with genuine affection for one another. The dangerous environment forced them to be so careful that they really thought through every small touch or smile they shared. They knew the consequences for getting caught and were not going to take that risk just to satisfy their lust.
While the environment of the mental hospital made for a lovely slow-burn romance, it also caused me a lot of anxiety. Every time John and Tully threw caution to the wind, I was was worried for them. There were people in the hospital with secrets they would kill to keep hidden. Tully and John were getting a bit too close to uncovering those secrets, and someone very dangerous was watching their every move just waiting for them to make a mistake. As much as I loved the heartwarming romance, I was also plagued by anxiety through most of this book.
Probably the biggest hurdle for me was at the end. All throughout the book, there were a thousand obstacles in the way of Tully and John being together and only a very slim chance of them finding happiness. I hate to say it, but the almost perfect end result was almost a letdown for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled for them to be together and happy. I was just a little irritated that I spent most of the book being worried about things which never happened, only to see that everything fell neatly into place. I may not have been sold on the too perfect conclusion, but I was very excited by where they ended up. It was so open to possibility and would be a great starting point for another book. I would love to see what becomes of the life Tully and John have made for themselves.