Saturday, April 30, 2022

Review: "The Mad Girls of New York" by Maya Rodale

Do you remember learning about Nellie Bly in school? I do - very vaguely. (Let's be real ... high school was a long time ago!) While she struck me as incredibly brave, I don't know if I would've picked up a book about her ... except that this cover called out to me! I'm glad it did, because the story inside is great.

The year is 1887, and Nellie Bly is a young woman with a dream: to write for one of New York’s most respected newspapers. The editors on Newspaper Row are convinced that women are too emotional and delicate to report on the harshness of the city’s scandals—and Bly is on a mission to prove them wrong.

But how does a woman pave a path for herself in such a cut-throat and male-dominated industry? Nellie’s solution: by playing a part that only a woman can. Her pitch: she’ll go undercover as an admitted patient at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women, a facility that has long been rumored to be a deplorable ruin where New York’s unwanted women are locked away and forgotten. Journalists are turned away at its doors. So it’s up to a female reporter who can play the part of a mad woman to expose the truth—and Nellie is just the woman to do it.

The New York World agrees to put Nellie’s acumen to the test. Nellie will have herself admitted, experience the horrors of Blackwell’s first-hand, and her editor will check her out of the facility in one week. But once inside, can she make it out and publish her findings before a (very attractive) rival journalist scoops her story?

This fictionalized account of Nellie Bly's undercover reporting about an insane asylum is so ... fun? It seems strange to talk about such a serious subject in that way, but I really did enjoy every second I spent reading this novel! 

The story starts with Nellie desperate to get a job with a New York newspaper. She soon comes up with the idea to get herself committed to Blackwell's, a women's insane asylum with a horrible reputation, and she convinces an editor that her story has merit. 

Nellie's journey is fraught with danger - both physical and mental - as she seeks at first to gain information for her article but then quickly just fights to survive. The conditions she encounters are horrific, and the women she meets have stories that tear at her heart.

As this novel is based on a true story, I had no doubt that Nellie would make it out alive, but I still felt the tension and danger! I also finished the novel with a desire to learn more about the real Nellie. This is a fascinating story, and I'm so glad I read it. Also, just a heads up for anyone wondering, although the book description seems to tease a romance, this is not at all a romance novel. Nellie has a couple minor flirtations, but there's really no romantic storyline at all.  4-1/2 stars.

Content note: There are a handful of mild swear words, as well as one instance of the f-word. Also, some of the descriptions of situations in the asylum are difficult to read but not at all explicit.

Buy the book (Amazon ad).

Maya Rodale
is the best-selling and award-winning author of funny, feminist fiction including historical romance, YA and historical fiction. A champion of the romance genre and its readers, she is also the author of
Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Maya reviews romance for NPR and has appeared in Bustle, Glamour, Shondaland, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and PBS. She began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence and has never been allowed to forget it.

Sign up for her newsletter at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to leave a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...