They strip her naked, of everything—undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen—still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . . Originally published in the UK, this well-paced, provocative romance pushes on boundaries—both literal and figurative—and, do beware: it will bind you, too
“ . . . a girl who studied too much would become ‘dogmatic and presumptuous, self-willed and arrogant, eccentric in dress, and disagreeable in manner.’” (Eagland 82).
Louisa Cosgrove is certainly not the average Victorian young lady. She entertains dreams of becoming a doctor, like her father. She spurns the idea that a woman must be married in order to be complete and happy. She dreams of a world where she is free to be herself. Sadly, in Victorian England, these fanciful ideas are enough to cause one to be institutionalized.
I was hooked on this novel from the first chapter. I especially loved the way part one alternates between first person present narration and flashback, allowing the reader to unravel the mystery at the same time as Louisa. Our protagonist finds herself institutionalized with no idea of why or who put her there and she must piece together bits of her past in order to solve the puzzle.
The pacing was perfect and it kept me hooked from beginning to end. Louisa’s character is easy to identify with, a girl who feels out of place and who does not understand why she must conform to societal constraints. Additionally, the history of the book is infuriating and caused me more than once to do some quick research to find out if things really were as bad as they are described to be. The short answer—they were. The inhumane treatment Louisa receives in the asylum is sadly, typical for the time period.
Louisa’s journey is not an easy one and many times I was angry for her or on the verge of tears over her situation. Her character inspires sympathy and envy, while I don’t envy her situation I am inspired by her strength. The ending, while bittersweet, is satisfying. It is difficult to review this book without giving too much away, so I will end by saying, “go read this book—NOW!!”