Blue Asylum & The Ballad of Tom Dooley

Book Pairing

Blue Asylum    The Ballad of Tom Dooley

No, the main idea between these books is not the fact that the women on the covers are wearing blue dresses.  A thread that is strong, however, is how the civil war plays a part in these two stories.  Both feature soldiers who have fought in the war and they have important roles in their respective novels.  Where one tale visits a psychiatric institution during that time, the other deals with a murder and the trial that takes place as a result.  In both instances, the person being accused of a crime is either trying to do good by their actions or is really innocent but the law finds a way to make the final decision seem just—even when it may not be.  What do I mean?  In the first book, Iris Dunleavy is arrested because she has tried to help her husband’s slaves escape from their plantation.  In the eyes of the law, she is considered insane and so she is sent off to an isolated asylum on an island to rehabilitate.  Her intentions were, of course, to set things right for the slaves, but society looks down upon her actions and considers her dangerous to herself and others.  At the institution, Iris falls in love with a Confederate soldier who is dealing with the traumas he had faced during the war.  In the other story, Tom Dula has been known to have his fair share of women, especially after the war.  He went off to fight because there was no future for him (he was a poor young man with no prospects).  Although he is supposed to be in love with his childhood sweetheart (Anne—who is already married), he is stuck in his loose ways and is framed for murder because of it.  Pauline Foster is the mastermind behind the plot to ruin any happiness that may have lasted between the smitten couple.  Unfortunately, an innocent woman gets caught in the love triangle and dies because of Anne’s  jealousy, while Tom is accused of a murder he didn’t commit and sentenced to hang.  Both books are very entertaining and have humor sprinkled throughout, despite the dark issues.  There is no denying that in each novel, there is a relatively smart and tough woman (which in those days, seemed to be rare).  Highly recommended, if you enjoy historical fiction.

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