I was looking forward to this new book from Kim Fielding but I didn't expect to LOVE it as much as I did.
I have read almost everything of Kim's and I love her voice -- it's so effortlessly flowing and easy yet can often surprise me with a little extra jolt of humor or angst. But I particularly loved the plot and theme of this book. I've always sort of been fascinated by the old insane asylums and the horrible things done there by supposedly well-meaning doctors. It's strange to think that as recently as the 50's educated doctors were doing things like electro-shock therapy and lobotomies. The fact that these things were done not just to people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia but those who didn't fit the societal norm like homosexuals is beyond tragic.
In this book, the author does a wonderful job of showcasing this topic without losing sight of a primary romance or becoming over angsty and dark. In the present day William, a deeply closeted man from a strict religious upbringing, becomes caretaker at an abandoned asylum. There, he finds an old tin box with letters from a patient who lived there in the 30's, also named William, who was committed for homosexuality and who wrote letters to his lover which were never sent. Through the letter-writer's descriptions of the events that happened to him, we learn about the treatments and conditions such patients had to endure. But the 1930's William's letters are still full of love and determination and hope. Though his story doesn't have a happy ending, his courage and the things he had deal with help current-day William realize he has the freedom to be gay and to let his own comparatively small problems hold him back is an insult to what men had to go through back then.
The romance itself involves a happily out-and-proud man, Colby, who lives in a nearby town. Thanks to the letters in the tin box, William finally gains the courage to admit to Colby that he's gay and to start a relationship with him. Colby was sweet and cute. The lack of communication in the last quarter of the book was a bit much -- I wanted to yell at William 'just go TELL him how you feel'. But I can understand that William was (rather annoyingly) shy and not necessarily an action-taker. The HEA resolution was very satisfying.
A big 5 stars from me. Thank you, Kim! I adored it.