Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Madness of Miss Grey by Julia Bennet


It's so hard to find historical romances coming out that don't feel like literal cut and pastes, but THE MADNESS OF MISS GREY is it. Set in a Victorian asylum, it is a romance between a patient and her doctor, and if that sounds toxic... well, that's because it kind of is. But romance is about fantasy, and who hasn't wished for someone in a position of authority to whisk them away from their unhappiness during their darkest times?

Helen has been confined to a private hospital by an unknown man with lots of power. In the hospital, she is subject to sadistic treatments by people who seem to enjoy their power over a lot more than they should. Her doctor is kind of like Claude Frollo, and his chief nurse definitely gives Nurse Ratched vibes. When a new doctor interferes with her escape, and ends up treating her for hypothermia, she mocks him for his "common" accent. That's because Dr. Carter grew up as the son of the help before getting his degree.

He's fascinated by Helen, who is the daughter of an actress, and adept at manipulating people to get her own way. Even though he knows he's being manipulated, he can't help but marvel at the sheer level of desperation she must feel to work her wiles on someone who poses such a potential threat. So in spite of his best interests, with the fate of his own career hanging over his head, he decides to help her, and find out who locked her away here-- and why.

The gothic atmosphere of this book was EVERYTHING. Also, the angst? *chef's kiss* It gives hurt/comfort fanfic vibes. There's just something so satisfying about seeing two characters in peril clinging to each other like sailors to a mast. Also I loved how Helen was so strong and simultaneously so vulnerable. It was refreshing to see a heroine who was manipulative and realistically flawed, and I loved that she wasn't a virgin. On that same note, I loved the author's decision to make Dr. Carter kind of ugly-- or at least, you know, super plain. He's self-conscious about his looks and his station (we find out he used to have sex with his late wife with the lights off D':), and the way Helen comes to idolize him for his goodness, and his strength, is just so, so sweet.

Anyone who likes dark romance but is tired of alpha heroes will love this romance, because in THE MADNESS OF MISS GREY, Julia Bennet has gift-wrapped for us a beta hero who simps hard for his woman and would tread through the very rivers of hell to bring her back from the dead.


4.5 out of 5 stars

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