Sister of Rogues by Cynthia Breeding
Overview by Amazon:
One moment Fiona MacLeod is attending a London ball, and the next she’s kidnapped and placed in the Dublin Lunatic Asylum by Wesley Alton, a madman who wants revenge on her family.
Her one bit of good fortune is that with the women’s ward at the asylum overflowing, she’s assigned a room in a nearby castle. But the more she tries to deny Alton’s cleverly concocted facts, the crazier she sounds to her keeper, the handsome Earl Kier O’Reilly.
With his family fortune dwindling, Kier pays his taxes by hosting non-violent asylum inmates in his ancestral castle. He’s immediately attracted to Fiona’s grey-eyed ethereal beauty, but he sternly reminds himself she’s his ward.
No matter what his heart whispers and his body screams, he cannot take advantage of a woman who is clinging to the last of her wits.
Meanwhile, the MacLeod brothers are hunting for their sister, and woe betide whoever stands in their way.
I was totally surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I really liked the characters and the plot. Even if it deals with a lunatic asylum, which is not pleasant at any time, but particularly at the 1800s. The views on mental illness are still stigmatized in society today, let alone before the medical community knew about antibiotics or the existence of germs. I think what I liked a lot about this book was that not only did it have a great story, it also had a social conscious and clearly the author did a lot of research to explore the treatment of mentally ill people.
Fiona is tricked into being kidnapped by a horrible man named Wesley Alton. I haven’t read the other books in the series, so his many misdeeds are outlined by the author. We get to know how much he wants revenge on the MacLeod clan and is using Fiona as his latest weapon against them. He kidnaps her from a ball and takes her to Dublin claiming to be her father. He tells the warden that she is recently widowed and tried to kill herself after the death of her husband. The more she denies it, the more she truly does sound crazy and falls into the trap Wesley sets for her.
The asylum is overflowing. Since she is deemed non-violent, she is sent to a castle next door to be kept at Earl Kier O’Reilly’s home. He only takes in the inmates to pay his bills. Immediately he senses something different about Fiona. He doesn’t want to believe she is crazy, yet he can’t put stock in her stories either. He spends a lot of the story, vacillating between if she is truly a lunatic or just the victim of foul deeds.
Kier can’t deny the attraction he feels for Fiona. I liked this element of the book the most. The soft looks between the two, a stolen kiss, tender regard – it was great how much they needed each other. Of course we know that Fiona is not crazy, so to have Kier as her protector from the horrible Ada and Seamus from the asylum was an important element in the story. The other lunatics were sad at times, but also provided some comedic relief – NOT that I find mental illness funny, but they would add levity to situations that seem so grim at times.
Fiona’s brothers and sisters are searching for her frantically. She has been gone for weeks before they catch a break. If you have read the previous books in the series, then I think you will really enjoy reading about the MacLeod men as the author provides glimpses of what is happening in their lives.
This book also has elements of fantasy. Since they are in Ireland there are magical creatures that help Fiona. She sees fairies, leprechauns and ghosts. None of this is scary, as this is not a gothic novel, but it is a reflection of the deep mystical beliefs held by Scottish and Irish culture at that time. I didn’t feel that it added anything to the novel, it actually detracted in my opinion, but Fiona kind of needed all the help she could get.
Kier can’t get Fiona out of his mind. He’s starting to believe that she isn’t crazy and is trying to find ways to get her away from the clutches of the warden. He’s also meeting underground with fellow Irishmen to plan a way to get Irish independence. The point of this plot is to show Kier as a man who cares deeply for a cause and the turmoil that Fiona puts him through begins to jeopardize his plans. He also meets suspicious French men through these meetings, who just happen to be Wesley Alton and his son, although Kier doesn’t know it.
Fiona is a very brave woman. She never gives up and never actually accepts her imprisonment. She is desperate to break out and save herself. I admired this about her. She has strong morals and refuses to accept less than she is worth. That goes for her relationship with Kier. He has to love her in order to win her. Believing her story is not enough for Fiona.
This was an enjoyable book. I liked the main characters and the plot was well developed. I enjoyed the deep research the author must have done to be able to write about the treatment of inmates of an asylum at the time. I also really enjoyed the ending of the book. The events at the end are not what you expect, but it makes for some great drama and heartache that keeps you guessing how it will all end.