The Darlings of the Asylum – Noel O’Reilly

Published By: HQ
Pages: 384
Released On: 08/12/2022

In 1886, a respectable young woman must acquire a husband. But Violet Pring does not want to marry. She longs to be a professional artist and live on her own terms.

When her scheming mother secures a desirable marriage proposal from an eligible Brighton gentleman for her, Violet protests. Her family believes she is deranged and deluded, so she is locked away in Hillwood Grange Lunatic Asylum against her will.

In her new cage, Violet faces an even greater challenge: she must escape the clutches of a sinister and formidable doctor and set herself free.

This tantalizing Gothic novel from Noel O’Reilly tells a thrilling story of duty and desire, madness and sanity, truth and delusion from within a Victorian asylum.


Thanks to NetGalley and HQ for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

It doesn’t matter how many times I read about old asylums, I still can’t get my head round their brutality and how inhumane some of them were, and the fact that this isn’t just fiction, this actually happened, particular for “manic” women.

There is a very blunt and sudden skip from “normal” life to life in the asylum, there’s no real build up or clues that the setting is about to change. This is good because it adds to the confusion and suddenness of the change for the characters, but it’s bad because it makes the book feel like two different stories. My concern is Violet seemed to accept her new situation very quickly. Yes she questions it and gets upset about it, but it all seems a bit too clean and smooth for me.

Dr Rastrick was a vile man and excellently written as such. I didn’t care for Violet’s parents at all, they had no redemption in my eyes, and her brothers were inconsequential. The asylum staff were neither here nor there for me. Felix is a bit of a wet weekend, and Mr Lilley, whilst slightly more layered, was a very egotistical and unsavoury man.

I would have liked more made of Mr Rastrick’s experiments. It was touched upon and discussed but it never reached the heights of terror I was expecting.

I did find the tone a bit odd. There’s this historical element, a bit of romance but then there’s this supernatural element and it makes it quite bumpy to read. What did irritate me was in the “normal” half, there was the odd bit of the asylum scenes, but it wasn’t consistent. It’s a random few scenes hare and there that didn’t make any sense being there and didn’t add to anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it, it’s well written and entertaining, but it felt a bit samey. There wasn’t much new about it and I think this did it a disservice. It comes after a lot of stories involving women in the 1800s who live in manor houses who want to rebel about their circumstances. And I think it’s just become a bit of a stale market.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: