The Cost of Courage

A lie is where it all began. Kitty isn't a nurse, she doesn't have extensive experience with mental patients, and she doesn't have the faintest idea how to measure dosages or administer injections. But she's given herself these qualifications in order to gain employment at an out-of-the-way hospital for soldiers back from the Great War who suffer from mental weakness, vapidity, and outright breakage. A daunting challenge, but Kitty refuses to back away. When odd, unexplainable happenings occur in the dark halls of Portis House during her night shifts and an atmosphere of malevolence grips the house and its residents in an oppressive choke-hold, she is forced to consider what she's really let herself in for.

No simple ghost story, St. James takes on the ever-controversial understanding and treatment of PTSD patients in a time when the perceived mental "illness" was viewed as madness. Men who had given almost everything to safeguard their home, people, and way of life returned to find their experiences had left them unable to reenter society as though nothing had occurred. Conditioned to the demands, horrors, and degradations of the battlefield -- a battlefield strange to Europe up to that point, as a mechanized nightmare -- life could never be as it had been before.

When Kitty ignores her orders and enters the room of a patient whose identity is meant to be unknown to all but the Matron and her most trusted nurse, she is faced with one of the "dirty little secrets" of WWI's aftermath. Jack Yates was the poster boy of the British effort to conquer the Western Front. Hailed as a hero, a true man's man, and the ideal of Allied courage, what could be more shocking for Kitty than to come face-to-face with him dressed in the sad pajamas of a mental patient?

Forced to come to terms with the reality of PTSD (before it was known as such) while the shadowy menace holding the house in thrall becomes more restless, Kitty finds herself caught between a viscous predator and its prey. Because the demonic ghost of Portis House has carried a disdain of cowardice with it into death -- and as the courage of the former soldiers is questioned by their very presence, they become the focus of the building fury.

Kitty has a willing partner in Jack, who finds in helping her the chance to pull himself out of the living death he had locked himself in. As they look for clues and learn the history of the house's former owners, dodging Matron and the orderlies every step of the way, a painful tale is revealed and more than one tormented soul begs to be set free. Can a hatred so powerful ever be laid to rest?

With strong characterization, a fine eye for the details which spread shivers up and down readers' spines, and a nice little touch of romance, St. James has crafted another excellent ghost story. Her heroine is plucky, not afraid to get her hands dirty, and prepared to take on the rules when she knows they do more harm than good. Balanced at her side is a man who had lost track of that which had made him a hero. And never forget the host of former warriors oppressed by the unfair, but misunderstood stigma against their suffering, who rise to the occasion and prove that PTSD does not mean courage and honor are dead. I loved every minute of it. Bravo!