Gwendolyn Adams is about to propose to an earl. On his deathbed.
Gwendolyn Adams isn’t shocked at being asked to save a handsome earl’s dying line, even when she learns the prospective bridegroom is seriously ill and possibly insane. She’s quite a good nurse, after all, and her family is famous for producing healthy male children. Those stories about his riding the moors half-naked on a pale white horse? Extremely intriguing—especially after she gets her first look at the gorgeous lunatic.
The Earl of Rawnsley wants only to lose what’s left of his mind in peace and privacy. But his busybody relatives have saddled him with a surprise bride and orders to sire an heir forthwith. (And they say he’s mad?) But with Gwendolyn, his health is returning, and his resistance … crumbling. Is it possible that love is the finest madness of all?
This novella was originally a part of an anthology released in 1995 but has not been re-released to stand on its own. And stand it does. It is not only an educational piece of history about the progress (or lack thereof) of the practice of medicine, of the ideas about insanity and about the practice of ascribing everything about the brain to madness if it was not understood by the medical profession. In this case, the Earl is absolutely convinced, based solely on the word of his mother’s doctor, that he was destined to die the horrific death she experienced, with headaches that drove her to madness and which ended her life in an asylum. There is serious concern on the part of the family that the Earl will die without issue, so they solicit the “services” of a young woman who they decide would probably die unwed anyway, so that she can marry the earl and become pregnant with his child prior to the madness setting in. Gwyn was known as a very good nurse–kind, caring, solicitous, knowledgeable for her times. What most had not taken seriously was her consistent and intentional study of the practice of medicine in the hopes of working with an established doctor and using her gifts to be a healer.
Society was not yet open to women physicians; in fact, most doctors didn’t even wash their hands before surgery. Yet Gwyn was not to be deterred and her willingness to marry the earl was also predicated on the fact that she wasn’t really convinced he was “mad” in the truest sense of the word. She was a very forward thinker and her medical mentor was a man that didn’t always just “roll over and play dead” when it came to the conclusions that most doctors touted as solutions to medical problems. Because of that, the earl’s life was substantively affected and the readers are gifted with a bit of mystery as to what really went on with the earl’s mother.
This is not a fast-moving novel and for some it will be just too slow. As a reader who is open to many writing styles, I was okay with the pace of the story for the most part, but I admit to there being times when I turned a few pages of internal monologue–too much of that really bores me.
All in all, however, I did enjoy the book and think it will be a fun read for readers.
I give it a rating of 3.75 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.