If I’m poking around for something new to read and the words Civil War pop up, I move on. My interest in historical fiction from that period began and ended with Gone With The Wind. Then because I hearted the cover on Blue Asylum so much I disregarded my embargo and read on. Once again judging a book by its cover has led me to reading happiness. Shallowness has so paid off for me over the years!
Essentially Blue Asylum is the story of a young wife, Iris, with abolitionist beliefs married to a southern slave owner who has her committed when she acts on her beliefs. Once at the island asylum of Sanibel Iris is subject to the treatments of an egotistical doctor, the fantasies of his son and is herself attracted to a traumatized Confederate soldier. There are unique touches to the whys, wheres and hows but emotionally it’s the usual pile on of drama after drama for a hoop-skirted heroine.
You could take that basic plot description and check Blue Asylum off as romantic soap opera. It is but it’s that and more in the hands of a strong writer like Kathy Hepinstall. This makes all the difference in the world my friends. Within the theater of the true to life historical elements, the war, slavery and marriage laws Hepinstall is able to create interesting, period-accurate characters (Halleluiah!) whose personal dramas unfold engagingly and realistically against a well researched ambiance. The union of all these parts without any one component over powering the other makes for a rich, smart read.