ORDER A COPY: Sweet Madness: A Veiled Seduction Novel
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publishing Date: April 2, 2013
Paperback: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Ever since her husband’s sudden and tragic death, Lady Penelope Bridgeman has committed herself to studying the maladies of the mind, particularly treating traumatized soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars. It is this expertise that brings the Marquess of Bromwich’s family to her door.
Gabriel Devereaux’s unexpected and unpredictable episodes are unlike any Penelope has studied. The once proud soldier has been left shaken and withdrawn, but she manages to build a fragile trust between them. Strangely, Gabriel seems completely lucid when not in the grips of his mania, and in the calm between bouts, she is surprised by how much she is drawn to him.
Despite his own growing feelings, Gabriel knows that he is fit for no one, and is determined to keep Penelope away from his descent into madness. But even though she knows firsthand the folly of loving a broken man, Penelope cannot stop herself from trying to save him, no matter the cost.
In a time before psycho-therapy, PTSD and psychotropic drugs, mental disorders were treated with institutionalization. It was for the best so they would not embarrass the family.
Gabriel Devereaux, the Marquis of Bromwich, has been having “episodes” since he has returned from the Napoleonic Wars. He can’t ride in a carriage. He can’t walk into a ballroom without going into a panic. When his cousin’s widow walks into the sanitarium while he was in the throes of the violent madness that is taking over his mind, he thought his humiliation was complete. That is until she brings the news that his family is about to bring the issue of his sanity before the Courts and strip him of his title.
Gabriel’s mother has sent Lady Penelope to help get Gabe out of the Vickering Place Sanitarium. She had heard of the wonderful work that Penelope has been doing with the returning solders and helping them got on with their lives.
Lady Penelope has come to learn a great deal about the disabilities of the mind. Unfortunately, it was only after her husband’s death that she came to understand that he had no control over his periods of depression, any more than he had over his periods of sleepless mania. In working and talking to returning soldiers, she has come to understand that most of their odd behaviors can be linked to the stresses of combat, and once understood, these stresses can be overcome.
And for the first time since Gabriel has returned home, Penelope has given him…hope. Hope that he might actually be able to get past his anxieties and once again be the man he was, and who has loved her from afar.
This is a very thought provoking story. Sometimes we forget that it was not too long ago that solders returning from the horrors of war were looked down at if they began acting oddly upon their return. Whether it be World War II, Vietnam Vets or even Gulf War soldiers, no one discussed the horrors they endured and their families tried to hide the fact that sometimes simple, everyday acts triggered strong, fearful reactions.
As we begin the story, we quickly understand that Penelope’s husband was manic-depressive, and although today it would be treated with medications, in this time period, no one understands the problem. Michael is seen only as gregarious and lively. No one but his new wife knows that he goes through periods of not sleeping until his system starts to break down and he disappears into the country for his depressive states. If anything, he would be thought of as an eccentric artist. Even Michael himself doesn’t realize that his behavior is unusual until Penelope begins to realize the pattern to his actions and points it out to him.
After his death, Penelope goes into her own withdrawal and is finally dragged out of it by her cousin to come help her at the hospital treating returning soldiers. It is through talking to these wounded solders and reading as much information that was available, that Penelope learns how to help the soldiers deal with the horrors of the war and understand the underlying triggers that are causing their fearful reactions.
Gabriel at first doesn’t want Penelope’s help since he has always had a deep love for her, and he doesn’t want her to see him at his lowest, but as he talks with her he starts to fight his own depression brought on by being institutionalized. As he works with Penelope, he starts to plan for the future and we start to see the confident, aristocrat reemerge.
It was quite an interesting story.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“When I first started visiting the soldiers at the hospital, I really had no idea how to reach them.” Dipping her hand into the pot, she withdrew a walnut-sized pouch and shook droplets of water from it until it stopped dripping. “Oftentimes we would just talk about our lives and interests. When they discovered I was an artist,” she said, taking a pin and piercing the pouch, “They asked to see some of my work.”
Red paint oozed out of the tiny hole she’d made, and the crisp tang of linseed oil reached his nose. Pen squeezed a dollop onto a wooden palette and then plugged the hole with a tack before placing the bladder of paint back into her container.
“After some great discussion of art, the men wanted a demonstration, so I did some painting for them.” She withdrew another bladder and pricked it, this time eliciting a bright green. “Then I encouraged them to try, and over a period of weeks, I discovered some interesting things.”
Green was replaced by yellow. “I already knew, you see, that the very act of painting made me feel better. I’d been pouring out my emotions onto the canvas since I’d picked up my first paintbrush. Thankfully” –-she flashed him an eye-rolling grin—“the melodramatic canvases of my youth have long since been destroyed.”
Blue paint now joined the others on the wood. “Anyway, as the men created their own works, I started noticing symbolism in some. Others were able to externalize their emotions through their art, and once they were on the canvas, separate themselves from the feelings enough to talk about them.” Purple joined the mix. “And for some, painting simply improved their moods enough to make it through their day.”
He crossed his arms and lowered his chin. “You expect me to…paint my feelings?”
She smiled and added another color to the palette. “I have a theory that the mere act of creating puts us in a place of positive emotion. Sometimes we gain insight simply by observing what we’ve created. And I believe that sometimes the artistic process can bring feelings to the forefront for us to see, even when it is not our intention. Once we can view those feelings objectively, we are free to abolish them as we see fit.” One last dollop, white this time and she placed the lid back on her pot.
Setting the palette on the table near the easel, she reached for brushes, fanning the sable hairs with her fingers. “Liliana wants me to prepare a paper on my findings, though if I did, I expect it would be laughed out of the Royal Society before they even read the title. Imagine me, trying to pretend that I’m brilliant.”
He looked at her, gathering art supplies and speaking passionately about the ways she’d discovered to relieve others’ suffering—men like him. Didn’t she see that she was brilliant? But even more, she was compassionate and kind. All of the intelligence in the words would be fruitless without those higher qualities that Penelope had in abundance.
But that seemed too deep for the moment, so he just repeated dryly, “You expect me to paint my feelings.”
She pursed her lips, but the corners of her mouth tipped up in a smile despite her efforts to look stern. “It might do you good to try, you know.”