Book Reviews

The Gentleman's Madness by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon at Duet Publishing

Genre Gay / Historical / 18th Century / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 28-November-2017

Book Blurb

Two men imprisoned. One in body, the other in mind.

Caught in the throes of passion with another man, scholar John Gilliam agrees to asylum treatment for perversion at the request of his worried parents. He intends to fake a cure then return to his normal life, but an attack on his person leads him down a darker path. Transferred to another facility, he is denied any devices by which he might harm himself—even books and writing materials. Half crazed by isolation John finds an unexpected friend in his caretaker, Sam Tully.

Tully feels sorry for the patient everyone calls “the professor,” but he must keep his head down and perform his duties. His family relies on his earnings. He refuses to acknowledge the stirring of excitement inside him every time he is in Gilliam’s presence. Thirst for the knowledge the scholar offers wars with the carnal hunger he must deny.

In John’s small cell, learning and mental freedom blossom as the two forge a friendship. Forbidden attraction evolves into physical action. But in the asylum there is more than curative treatment taking place. The pair uncover a terrible secret and must fight not only for their freedom but their very lives.

First Edition published by Samhain Publishing, 2013.

Book Review

Until 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental and emotional disorder, but it was removed from the American Psychiatric Association's official manual in that year. I'm certain that many men such as John Gilliam, from 'The Gentleman's Madness' by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee, had their lives and sanity destroyed by the hideous notion that feeling desire for another man was sinful and depraved. Desperate to keep from worrying his parents any further, John voluntarily gives up his freedom and enters into an asylum for treatment of a disease he knows he does not have. It proves to be one of the worst decisions of his life.

John could never have imagined how humiliating and painful his treatments in the asylum would be. He never thought about how depraved, violent, and avaricious the people in control are and how they will stop at nothing to keep the cash flowing. Coming from a wealthy family actually works against John; the asylum director is desperate to keep him there as long as possible and will stop at nothing to achieve this purpose. What bothers John the most is the absurdity of the prescribed treatments, which, in a stretch of anyone's imagination, couldn't possibly be beneficial. Yet, he's there, completely vulnerable, clinging to what's left of his sanity and dignity, hoping against hope that his father will believe he's cured, not listen to the greedy director, and secure his release. One glimmer of hope is that Tully, one of the guards, who, in an act of compassion, endears himself to John, will help him find a way not just to freedom, but to love.

Tully seems out of place as a guard at the institution, but he lost his job because of a work-related incident and needed another. Unfortunately, they didn't have workers compensation in those days. If you couldn't do the job, they hired someone who could. His patience and kindness with the inmates is unprecedented and appreciated by both the patients and by the director, since Tully can bring order back more quickly than any of the other guards. When he meets John, Tully is strongly drawn to him; he feels a great deal of sympathy for this beautiful, intelligent young man so obviously not belonging in such a place. Although conflicted, since he fights unnatural desires himself, Tully can't help but fall into a relationship with John both emotionally and physically; even though he knows they are from totally different worlds, they have an affinity which goes beyond class; he can't help but dream about a life together. When John appeals to Tully's sense of fairness in helping expose the institution's director for the corrupt fraud he is, Tully quickly agrees, putting himself and John in danger in order to achieve this purpose.

This marvelous story deals with some dark times for men loving men. Setting the story in an insane asylum enhances the sense of desperation and humiliation homosexuals felt during that time. Not only were they trapped within themselves by society, in this instance, John is literally entrapped, falsely accused, and needlessly tortured in order to "cure" something that was not broken to begin with. I love Summer and Bonnie's lyrical style of writing, which is so in tune with the time period, putting me right there in the story along with the compelling action and brilliant, real characters.  I can't think of anything less romantic than a mental hospital, yet Summer and Bonnie manage to make it artistic and awful at the same time. I highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a romantic historical story which also involves intrigue, danger, intensity, sexuality, and a happy ending. Thanks, Summer and Bonnie, for another delightful historical gay romance.





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Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 244 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 24-March-2017
Price $3.99 ebook, $10.99 paperback
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