Sweet Madness
by Heather Snow
(Signet Eclipse, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0451-23967-9
With a unique plotline, Heather Snow has done for historical books what many contemporary novelists have done lately. She has put a spotlight on mental illness issues. Of course, in the early 1800’s the knowledge of these illnesses was limited and for most, a “sanitarium” was their future. Snow has done a creditable job of combining a tale of just such a future with a romance that delivers.

Gabriel Devereaux, Marquis of Bromwich, was a hero of the Napoleonic Wars and when he returned many said he was not his old self. He suffered for over a week in an unknown setting at the end of the Battle of Waterloo. What he remembers is that he and his men went on an important mission and only he returned. For the last several months he has suffered bouts of “mania” where he stripped his clothes off and was often violent. His family placed him, with his agreement, at Vickering Place, an old estate converted into a sanitarium. So far, none of the treatments such as leeching or blistering has helped.

Penelope Bridgman was married to Gabriel’s cousin Michael, who died one night under suspicious circumstances. Michael had suffered bouts of mania and many thought him mad. In truth, he did die of his own hand and Penelope has felt responsible ever since his death. She has been committed to helping others and has even studied some about the travails of men returning from the war with battle fatigue. She is determined to help Gabriel and at his mother’s request, she meets with him at Vickering Place.

Soon she realizes that Gabriel has more time as a lucid, sane man than as the maniac many accuse him of being. She is convinced that many of his issues revolve around his memories of the war that he has chosen to forget. She soon gains Gabriel’s trust and they devise a plan to leave the sanitarium so that he might heal more. On their journey and during their stay at a friend’s estate not only do they think they have solved his problems, but they fall in love. Now they just have to prove his sanity before his family has him declared incompetent.

As a person who works in the field of disabilities, I struggled at times with the simplicity that the author made it seem when dealing with depression and the traumatic syndrome that Gabriel was suffering. Yet, Snow offers no excuses for the treatment that was considered state of the art at the time. And the love story is nice if you can buy into the idea that a person would knowingly fall for someone others consider not only crazy but dangerous. Much of their attraction dated to earlier times and they just sort of fall into a relationship.The story fizzled a little because the ending seemed too convenient and a little anticlimactic.

Overall, however, this third entry into the Veiled Seduction series is interesting enough to engage a reader.

--Shirley Lyons

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