Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: Frail by Susanna Ives

Theo Mallory is a veteran of the Crimean War. He wasn't wounded in body, but his mind is damaged,
soothed only by working in his gardens in Wales. When he discovers that some of his former soldiers are being defrauded by a bank owner, he brings the information to Scotland Yard. The bank owner's daughter, Helena Gillingham, is completely destroyed by her father's crimes. Once a social light, she is now scorned by her former friends. Penniless and a pariah, she retreats to her cousin Emily's home in Wales, the only choice left to her. Of course, Theo is Emily's near neighbor and friend.
Parts of this book are difficult to read. Theo's PTSD (as we'd call it today) is traumatic and heartbreaking. Ms. Ives does an excellent job when she writes about this. She is both realistic and sympathetic. There weren't many choices for a 'madman' in Victorian England. There are the madhouses like Bedlam for the poor and asylums for the rich like Theo. Helena has her own traumas. At first, she's merely frivolous and unwitting, but as the story continues Helena grows as a woman, facing her troubles with more fortitude than I expected.
This is a lovely story. I loved Theo's castle and his gardens, and I want to move there. Each character is finely drawn: young Megan (Emily's daughter), Betry the pregnant servant, and the Reverand. I want to know more about the Gordons; I'm sure their story would also be a great book. Parts of the book are depressing. This is definitely not a light romance, but it is a great read.

Link to Amazon

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