Gaylist Reviews, Jules, B+
There is so much tension in this book, from the sexual tension as John and Tully deny the attraction between them, the fear of being discovered as they find comfort in each other, and the discovery of sinister actions going on at the asylum.
Top2Bottom Reviews, 5 stars
I absolutely loved the tenderness and care that Tully not only showed John, but the other patients as well. Both men go through a lot of personal growth and become stronger men because of their situation.
Words of Wisdom from the Scarf Princess, A-
It’s a compelling mystery though that gives John and Sam the opportunity of a future together far away from a judgmental society. Between the romance and mystery I found myself enthralled by the heartbreaking and ultimately heartwarming story that’s another winner.
Crystal’s Many Reviewers, Paul 4 1/2 stars
I highly recommend this beautiful and intelligent story of forbidden love and conspiracy for anyone who wants to see what life was like for a gay man in 1880’s!
Heroes & Heartbreakers, Jennifer Porter
THE GENTLEMAN’S MADNESS is a tough, emotional read, but well worth the effort. John and Tully’s love is a forbidden one, making for some serious angst.
Joyfully Jay Reviews, 4.25 stars
I loved them together, this fragile relationship built in this terrible environment fraught with danger, but somehow able to flourish. And I especially liked the epilogue and seeing where these men end up.
Jessewave Reviews, Andrea
A good, heartwarming, slow-burn romance set in an environment which riddled me with anxiety.
Rainbow Reviews, Lena Grey
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 highly recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a romantic historical story which also involves intrigue, danger, intensity, sexuality, and a happy ending.
Dear Author, Willaful, B
the distinct character voices are well drawn, and of course there are strong contrasts between the slender, intellectual John and the huge, calloused laborer Sam. The sex scenes are on the milder side, which feels very appropriate for a shorter novel — the focus stays on the characters and the setting — and the romance comes to full bloom very gently and sweetly at the end.
My Fiction Nook, Sandra, 3 1/2 stars
The two men grow beyond the patient/attendant relationship, and I liked the slow burn of their affections.
Mrs. Condit Reviews, Josie, 4 stars
An uplifting story showcasing the triumph of hope over adversity. Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee are authors who know how weave a wonderful tale, and they also create lovely characters with depth, heart and spirit.
Padme’s Library, Heather, 5 stars
John’s journey definitely broke my heart, but when Sam Tully entered his room, heartwarming feels popped up all over the place.
He shivered under the woolen blanket and wrapped it more tightly around his half-naked body. Didn’t they worry that a person might somehow rip the blanket into strips, braid a rope and choke himself with it?
But of course, he was supposed to be in that straitjacket. Thanks to burly Tully the attendant for taking that off, although he wished the man had made good on his promise to return with clothing.
As if in response to his thought, the grate of the key in the lock broke the silence, and the door opened to reveal the attendant. His shoulders filled the frame, and he nearly had to tilt to the side to enter the room. He carried an oil lamp and, in the crook of his other arm, a pile of clothes and a satchel.
“Thank God,” John said. “I’d nearly given up on you returning.”
“A bit of a scuffle in the yard, and then I had to make the request of Dr. McAndrew.” Tully offered the freshly laundered clothes, which consisted of loose-fitting trousers and shirt, to John. “He agreed you might write for a bit each day, under supervision, so I’ve brought you some pens and papers and suchlike from your supplies.”
“Oh!” Ecstatic, John dropped the clothes and reached out for the satchel instead.
His skin prickled under the attendant’s gaze as he unpacked his journal and blessed, blessed pen in its well-used case. Being watched while he practically cooed over the leather-bound book reminded him of his debased state, but then, everything in this place seemed intended to humiliate, with no moment of privacy and hardly any corner of one’s mind not exposed to prodding and pushing.
Certainly McAndrew had read the contents of this journal. But, no fool, John had written only of academic matters since his incarceration. His personal thoughts must be kept locked in the dark recesses of his mind, where even the probing doctors couldn’t get at them.
Bringing the leather journal to his nose, he took a long whiff, then looked up at Mr. Tully. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, sir. You must really love to write. I was never much of a hand at it myself.”
John owed the attendant something for his help, but all he had to offer was conversation. “Were you uninterested in learning?”
“I got by in school, and after that I worked on the docks like my dad.”
John wasn’t surprised. “A docker’s son?”
“He ended up a stevedore,” Tully corrected. He put the lamp on the floor. The light cast strong shadows over the dark and looming figure, yet his sinister appearance didn’t frighten John, at least not so much as to shrink away.
“There’s a difference?” John asked.
“Stevedores stow the cargo on board the ships, and that takes skill. The ship owners hire ’em, not the dock companies.” Tully spoke with obvious pride.
“What brought you here instead? I couldn’t imagine this place is more pleasant than laboring in the fresh, open air.”
The big fellow laughed, a pleasant rumbling that went right through John. “I don’t know about fresh. The wharf stinks of fish and refuse and worse things.” He shrugged. “The pay was better, it’s true. But I hurt my back and had to take time off to heal. Couldn’t lift the heavier crates and barrels after that, and there were plenty of younger, stronger men lined up for my job.”
“Well, you’re surely fit enough to look after a few patients. I imagine most of us don’t weigh as much as a barrel of grain.”
“No, sir.” A smile lingered on the wide, round face.
A sweet, gentle smile, John realized and felt a pitiful ache in his heart. He’d felt so little human connection in the months since he’d been locked up that any crumb of kindness was a feast.
“This woman today, though, was as old as a granny yet had the strength of a fighting bulldog,” Tully continued. “The insane seem to possess unbelievable strength when they get into a lather.”
“Or we weep like infants,” John said sourly. “I shall never get out of here if I can’t control my emotions better than I did today in the presence of my doctor.” He didn’t even want to think about his idiotic mention of suicide two days ago that led to this fuss about his pens. John certainly didn’t want to follow that thought back to the attendant at the previous asylum who’d held him down and nearly gotten his cock inside John, or John’s inability to sleep or think well since that night. He’d concentrate on this moment, which meant getting dressed.
Tully leaned his big frame against the closed door, arms folded, and averted his eyes as John rose and began to put on the simple clothes—no buttons, only hooks and eyes to keep the loose-fitting trousers up around his hips and the shirtfront closed.
“Everyone has black moods sometimes, sir. And everyone needs to shed a tear or two now and again, especially in this godforsaken place.”
John looked up at him sharply. It seemed quite out of line for the attendant to speak of the institution that employed him in such a dismissive manner. But then, who would John tell, and why would he when he wholeheartedly agreed?
“You sound as if you hate this place nearly as much as I do.”
“No, sir, I don’t hate it. I feel the suffering of the patients. That’s why I call it godforsaken. But I believe our doctors take their health and wellbeing to heart, and the treatments they perform are intended to heal.”
“No matter how extreme the treatment?” John couldn’t suppress his bitter tone. “Truly, you believe that the ice baths and electric shocks are curative?”
“We don’t do shocks here, sir.”
“You are evading the basic question. Do you think these treatments are curative?”
The massive shoulders lifted and fell. “I wouldn’t know, sir. I’m not a physician. Like I said, I didn’t even finish primary school. If these educated men think these methods help, they must be right.”
John snorted as he fastened the last hook and eye on his flimsy shirt. “And if our esteemed Dr. McAndrew told you that bleeding and leeches were back in vogue for removing the evil humors that fill us, would you believe that too?”
At long last he could speak his true mind, vent his feelings and express his anger without fear of repercussion. The words just kept pouring out. “And do you honestly hold with this nonsensical teaching that a man with unusual sexual proclivities has those desires due to ‘congenital inversion’?”
“I dunno if I hold with it, because I don’t know what that means,” the attendant said calmly. “I do know that some men just have different feelings than others. And that it’s more of them than you’d expect.”
John studied the attendant’s rough-hewn features, surprised by the sudden turn of the conversation and by the fact that they were having a conversation at all. He’d spoken little to any of the attendants who’d handled him during the three-month course of his incarceration, first at Dr. Maxwell’s establishment, then here at Fairpark. At least, nothing other than, “Please, no. God, stop.”
He would not think of the assault now. What had they been speaking of? Of course. His malady.
“‘Congenital inversion’ means the switch to being attracted to the same sex occurs during birth, and wise men such as good Dr. Andrews believe they can reverse those wrong desires, returning the patient to normal,” he explained. “But what do you mean about there being more deviants than one would expect?”
Tully moved restlessly from foot to foot. “Naught. I’ve said too much. Why don’t you go on with your writing, then? Time’s trickling away, and I’ve other things to do.”
John abandoned his questioning and followed orders, something he noticed he’d become more prone to do since rules and regulations were the bread and butter of places like this. Having the choices taken from them did seem to help some of the patients, though it chafed him more than the wool-lined restraints they’d used on his wrists at Dr. Maxwell’s.
He put on the felt slippers, then sat cross-legged on the floor and opened the journal.
He uncapped the self-filling ink pen his father had given him on his nineteenth birthday—a happy memory that he couldn’t dwell on now without a profound sense of loss and longing—and put pen to paper.
But he found that his thoughts didn’t flow. It was hard to ponder Plato’s discourses on Socrates and apply the elenctic method to an imagined discussion about a book he’d read almost a year ago when the looming presence of his guard seemed to fill the room.
Tully stood ready to lunge if John went suddenly manic and rammed the sharp pen tip into his throat, yet a surprisingly companionable feeling simmered between them. They’d talked together as free men might, and that gave John a renewed sense of his own humanity.
He wasn’t nothing. He wasn’t completely alone.