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A White Room - A Novel of Victorian Hysteria & Underground Nursing (Historical Women's Fiction) [Kindle Edition]

Stephanie Carroll
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A White Room

At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be "the angels of the house," even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual Gothic house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house's grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed medical practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

Based on historical trends of the era and inspired by Victorian novels The Yellow Wallpaper, The Secret Garden, and Wuthering Heights, author Stephanie Carroll has taken women's empowerment in fiction to an all new level in this inspiring debut.

A White Room was featured as a Notable Page Turner in Shelf Unbound Magazine and named 2013's Best Cross-Genre Title by USA Book News.

"A novel of grit, independence, and determination ... An intelligent story, well told."
Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

"The best historical fiction makes you forget it's fiction and forget it's historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper ... the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing."
Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women's History, University of San Diego

Still Not Sure? Use Amazon's Look Inside Feature or Have a Sample Sent to Your Reader!

Feminist Fiction, Historical
Feminist Fiction, Hysteria
Feminist Fiction, Midwifery
Feminist Fiction, Turn of the Century
Feminist Fiction, United States
Feminist Fiction, Victorian
Gothic Historical Fiction
Gothic Historical Fiction, House
Gothic Historical Fiction, Hysteria
Gothic Historical Fiction, Psychological
Gothic Historical Fiction, Symbolic
Gothic Historical Fiction, Victorian
Strong Female Lead, 19th Century
Strong Female Lead, Marriage
Strong Female Lead, Turn of the Century
Strong Female Lead, Victorian Era
Strong Female Lead, Women’s History
Strong Female Lead, Victorian
Metaphysical Fiction, Arranged Marriage
Metaphysical Fiction, Friendship
Metaphysical Fiction, Medical
Metaphysical Fiction, Nursing
Metaphysical Fiction, Psychological
Metaphysical Fiction, US
Metaphysical Fiction, Victorian
Historical Women’s Fiction, 19th Century
Historical Women’s Fiction, America
Historical Women’s Fiction, Historical Marriage
Historical Women’s Fiction, Isolation
Historical Women’s Fiction, Women's Rights
Historical Women’s Fiction, Victorian Era
Midwife Fiction, 19th Century
Midwife Fiction, Drama
Midwife Fiction, Metaphysical
Midwife Fiction, Mystery
Midwife Fiction, Nursing
Midwife Fiction, Women’s Rights
Victorian Historical Fiction, Marriage
Victorian Historical Fiction, Medical
Victorian Historical Fiction, Nursing
Victorian Historical Fiction, Women's Rights
Victorian Historical Fiction, Byronic Hero
Victorian Historical Fiction, Gothic

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Editorial Reviews


"A novel of grit, independence, and determination ... An intelligent story, well told."
Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine
"The best historical fiction makes you forget it's fiction and forget it's historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper ... the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing."
Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women's History, University of San Diego
Amazon US Review
I totally loved this book. It's been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, ... Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte'sWuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables ... and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier's works.
Amazon US Review
Carroll does a superb job of pulling the reader in from the start. We feel as if we are Emma, her thoughts and actions and worries so pervasive to our own minds. Just as the house seeps in to our bones and we feel it closing around us as Emma does, as we feel the creepiness making the hair on our arms raise, just as we ourselves might go mad out of anger for Emma's life, a redeeming break happens. The light enters in and Emma shines. - Erin Al-Mehairi
Amazon US Review
I love books that surprise me. Stephanie Carroll has written an interesting historical novel with a flavor of mystery and a touch of the gothic.

From the Author

Contact Author Stephanie Carroll!
To read behind the scenes of "A White Room," & get future discounts & freebees, in edition to learning how to become a test reader for future books, sign up for the VIP Reader newsletter @ 
If you enjoy Gothic Victorian fiction, the history of Victorian women, turn of the century nursing history, or any of the topics in this novel, please start a conversation or just say hi at, or @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or Pinterest. 
As a Veteran Navy Wife, I also founded and write at the Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Navy Girlfriends blog at
I look forward to meeting you!
If you enjoy this Victorian Gothic Novel, please show your support by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Amazon and Goodreads reviews play a large role in a new release and a new author's success and I would be so grateful. 
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" an Inspiration for A White Room - from an Author Interview with Stephanie Carroll courtesy of  The Book Wheel:

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is about a woman diagnosed with hysteria and confined to her bed as a form of treatment. Her doctor husband won't allow her to do anything but rest because it was believed stimulation would worsen her condition. The story is written as if it were a journal she is sneaking as her writing was discouraged too. She keeps talking about how the only thing she can do all day is stare at this horrendous wallpaper in her room. She becomes obsessed with it, and starts seeing it move, starts seeing a woman trapped behind it.
She goes mad, and in the last scene, she is "creeping" around the room peeling the yellow paper from the walls and laughing as everyone who had acted as her jail-keepers watches in horror. She has freed the woman behind the paper and in doing so becomes her, a wild thing freed from her bounds. Her husband faints. I interpreted this as her finding freedom through madness as she no longer cares what her husband says or what society expects.
The first thing in A White Room that people recognize as reminiscent of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is the situation of a husband taking his wife to an isolated and disturbing country home and forcing her to rest as a form of treatment for hysteria. I re-envisioned the element of something inanimate coming to life with the house and furniture. I chose those elements instead of the wallpaper because I didn't want to rewrite "The Yellow Wallpaper." I wanted A White Room to stand on its own. Further, the house represents the white room in my metaphor. I wanted that white room and that white house to be the element that drove my character insane rather than the yellow wallpaper.
I incorporated the furniture after I discovered Victorian Art Nouveau. This style of furniture and decor had a lot of scrolling and winding designs that reminded me of the descriptions of the wallpaper in Gilman's story. Plus, the designers incorporated either a life form or a suggestion of movement into every piece, so the objects practically look as though they are coming to life already. The combination of house and furniture was perfect as it embodies domesticity, which is the role and situation Emeline has been forced into.  

There are a variety of other more subtle elements that I took from the story, as well. The narrative is told from a limited and unreliable first-person perspective, so certain characters, like the husband, were strangers to the reader, and certain events may have occurred differently than how we are told. I used this point of view in A White Room and made Emeline's husband a stranger to the reader, at least until the very end.
The language I used in the novel is also highly inspired by "The Yellow Wallpaper." When I reread the short story and realized I wanted to use it as my inspiration, I studied the language, assuming late 19th century vernacular would be very different from our own, but I was surprised at how modern it read. People could read this story today and think it is a contemporary piece of short fiction. It is so easy to read that I chose that route as opposed to a more flowery Victorian verbiage.
There is also a very distinctive mood created in "The Yellow Wallpaper." It's a sense of isolation, despair, unease, and mystery characteristic of a haunted house story, but with an uncertainty of whether or not the things the main character sees are ghosts or her own hallucinations. This was one of the most complicated things to recreate. It was difficult to incite an uncertainty in the reader without causing confusion. The fact that it is not clear whether or not the house is haunted or if Emeline is seeing things is a reflection of that uncertainty in "The Yellow Wallpaper." However, Gilman later explained that her story wasn't meant to be a ghost story, and I can say the same thing about A White Room.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" ends with the wallpaper having driven the heroine insane, but in her madness she has discovered a sense of freedom. I still wanted my character to find freedom through insanity, but I didn't want that to be the entire story. Instead, I made it so that Emeline is only able to pursue her passion after she goes insane because only then has she stopped caring what her husband says, what her family wants, and what society expects.
Where I really strayed from "The Yellow Wallpaper" is in the second half of the novel. My first inclination was to have Emeline leave her husband whose treatment felt so unkind, but I wanted to do something unexpected with John because when you really look at his character in "The Yellow Wallpaper," it's not so clear as to whether he is in fact a monster or if he is simply ignorant and insistent because of his concern for his wife. I decided I could use the unreliable narrator to go in a direction with John that was unexpected.
Taking the story into the underground world of unlicensed nursing and the professionalization of medicine was the biggest split from "The Yellow Wallpaper." I went in that direction because I wanted Emeline to have the desire to seek out a profession. I wanted her to have a dream to go after once she was free to do as she pleased. I was attracted to the nursing profession because of the history of how doctors and authorities went after midwives and unlicensed nurses in a way comparable to the witch trials.
I wanted to create an interesting juxtaposition. The witch trials were a movement of mass hysteria and in response to a belief that women were naturally flawed with a weakness for evil. This is comparable to why hysteria exploded in the late 19th century. It also dealt with the belief that women were flawed, only instead of evil, it was the belief that they were vulnerable to emotional and mental instability.
Also going with a medical theme allowed me to stick with Gilman's portrayal of the professional doctor as the enemy, but I took it in a different direction playing on other historical trends in addition to that which impacted hysteria. Further, instead of making her husband a doctor, I turned him into a lawyer for the doctors.

Product Details

  • File Size: 558 KB
  • Print Length: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Unhinged Books (February 3, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CY6GKU2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,544 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Gothic Historical Fiction June 19, 2013
Emma is terrified of her house. It moves, creaks, and seems alive. Is the terror truly there or is it in her own head? Is her isolation driving her mad or is her madness making her isolated?

The White Room by Stephanie Carroll is a historical novel showcasing the plight of women in the early 20th Century, where desperation for women with dreams and desires outside of working in the home could blur the lines between sanity and insanity. Where men ruled the towns, the families, and the plight of every woman. Where high society women betrayed, humiliated, and bullied other women for wanting more than to launder, cook, and clean.

Emeline (Emma) Evans' beloved father, who encouraged her dreams of helping people through nursing and had the funds to send her for an education, dies leaving her mother, her siblings, and her in sudden poverty. Not knowing how else to help her family, she pleads to a family once helped by her father to let her marry their son. Once they agree, she is thrown into an undesirable situation by the new husband, John Dorr, who moves her far away from any family to start a new isolated life in a gothic home that reeks of sorrow and desires unmet.

Coupled with the fact that the only human contact, besides their a few-days-a-week maid who helped her with the incessant chores, were the high society women in the church who ran committees for profit or invited her low rung young husband lawyer to dine at their homes where she inevitably made mistakes.

Society in the early 1900s didn't approve of women working outside of the home...their duty was to lug and hand wash dishes, launder clothing by hand, starch, iron, cook, scrub floors on hands and knees, be a dutiful wife and have sons...even if they had an education.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A white room September 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
A White Room

Stephanie Carroll

A debut novel by Stephanie Carroll full of surprises. After the death of her father puts her family into poverty, Emma marries John Dorr. its the only thing she can do to help her mother and sisters. John moves them to Labellum, Missouri, where she knows no one and is not welcomed by the society women. Their gothic house has an unusual effect on Emma. She sees furniture moving and people and creatures staring at her from empty rooms. It is almost as if the house is alive. The house is down right creepy and Emeline needs to escape from it.

I wasn't sure how I really felt about Emeline. Yes she was in a loveless marriage and struggles with many things. Was it admiration or pity that I was feeling for her? Stephanie made me think about how I really felt about abortion and assisted suicide. All in all, a good but difficult read about feminism and realistic historical fiction. Emeline sacrificed so much for her family and at times my heart broke for her and other times, I wanted to shake some sense into her.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating May 16, 2013
By Kerry M
What can I say - WOW this is a captivating story. I must admit when I first started reading I thought it a little thin on the descriptive side and the author seemed to miss describing/exploring key elements of the early part of the story to which I was a little disappointed. I was wrong, stay tuned because it all makes sense later.

My feelings for the main character Emeline vacillated between pity and admiration as the story unfolded. Each character is interesting, some evolve with time, some I hated others I loved - the sign of a well written book. Each character was believable in their own way and came alive with the telling. I don't want to spoil the storyline for anyone who is yet to read it so I wont say anything about it other than to say, thank God things have changed since the 1800's. My goodness their understanding of mental health was appalling. The further you get into this story the more it captivates you.

Stephanie Carroll has given us a truly amazing gift and I can't wait to see this one as a movie. A brilliant debut novel and I look forward to reading more of her writing. Thank you for a beautifully crafted tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Madness Whispers in 'A White Room' August 17, 2013
By Allison
Format:Kindle Edition
Note: I requested this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
As a general rule, I stay away from books that are considered "scary" because I have a very active imagination. It's been over ten years since I read Helter Skelter and I still have to leave the lights on at night when I think about the creepy crawling. So I'm a bit surprised to find that I enjoyed A White Room so much because it had a similar effect.

The book is essentially two stories about the same protagonist, Emeline. After the untimely death of her father, Emeline gives up her dreams of becoming a nurse and marries a family friend named John Dorr because it's the practical thing to do. Upon their marriage, they move from the big city of St. Louis to Labellum, Missouri: population tiny. Living in a steal of a house that's dark, dreary, and downright depressing, Emeline's isolation begins to take a psychological toll on her. Luckily (or unluckily), the Dorr's live in a town with only one doctor and there is a huge need for basic healthcare. Although it is illegal, Emeline begins to emerge from isolation and heal herself by tending to those in need.

Fans of The Yellow Wallpaper will love this debut from Stephanie Carroll because it's about a woman feeling her house is alive and that other people are living in it. I, for one, couldn't put the book down but was also reading with the covers up to my chin and all of the lights on. It's not because the book is scary but because I could absolutely understand why Emeline was losing it. I could have sworn that my own walls were watching me and I had horrible flashbacks from the movie "House on Haunted Hill" when the girl looks through the camera lens to see the ghosts staring back at her.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Good plot, clunky writing.
I'm hesitant to give this book a poor review because I wanted to like it, and the plot was stunning. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Codexx
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine debut novel
The story is told in first person by the main character, Emaline. When her father dies her family is left destitute and Emaline takes it upon herself to save her family by marrying... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jessica Lea
5.0 out of 5 stars ... woman who has suffered with hallucinations brought on by painful...
As a feminist and a woman who has suffered with hallucinations brought on by painful memories, this story meant more to me than I could have ever imagined. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lauren
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Victorian
I have really looked forward to reading this book - and I enjoyed it, but not for the reasons I thought I would. I look at it as a tragedy of sorts. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Elizabeth
1.0 out of 5 stars not for me
I just couldn't get into it. I didn't find interesting at all. It seemed disjointed. I rarely ever give up on a book .
Published 4 months ago by P. A. Runyan
3.0 out of 5 stars the white room
It started out slow , but it picked up. It also it showed how people mind works.would recommend the boo
Published 5 months ago by Edna Donovan
2.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler alert!!
I did not enjoy this book very much, for a number of reasons. The relationship of Emeline and John did not ring true. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Suzi Lindsay
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!
This book was a great read! The author quickly engages the reader with the dreams and then disaster of the main character. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jules
5.0 out of 5 stars Hysteria
Good read, made me glad to be born in the late 1950's and not early 1900's. I would have been insane if I had to wear corsets all the time.
Published 6 months ago by sandiglass
5.0 out of 5 stars Held Me Captivated
I loved this book. I thought the author did a great job with making you feel like you were right there. Good descriptions of the house, feelings, emotions. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Joyce B
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More About the Author

As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights).

Stephanie writes The Unhinged Historian blog and Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives blog. She lives in California where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is

A White Room is her debut novel.

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