Don't let the cover of Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (2010) fool you. This isn't a fluffy Victorian-era romance, not in the slightest; this is a book about identity, self-determination, and the way in which life shows you your true friends. There's also a touch of non-traditional romance, though that isn't the focus of the book.
Louisa Cosgrove believes she's heading off to become the companion to the daughter of a wealthy family. Not exactly the life she truly wants to pursue, that of being a physician like her now-deceased father, but also a realistic outcome for a woman of her period and class who doesn't want a husband and family.
Instead, she finds herself in an insane asylum, being called by the name Lucy Childs. Why is she there, and who can she trust? And, most important of all, how can she ever escape the living hell that mental institutions were at the time?
Louisa is a strong, independent young woman facing some harsh circumstances. I really enjoyed her character and the overall story, though I did find some of the, shall we say Divine retribution, that finds some characters a little too convenient.
I think Eagland shows a fine hand at detail, along with careful research into the mental asylums of the nineteenth century. She brings Louisa's world alive during her incarceration to the point that I had trouble sleeping after reading the book!
Learn more at the author's site here.
My overall personal rating of Wildthorn is a B.