I'm not really sure why this is shelved as a romance, as there really isn't much. HYSTERIA is a short (very short) story about a girl named Constance who is being treated for her hysteria in Victorian England.
Hysteria is now known as a synonym for "panic" (or the title of a Muse song), but it used to be a handy-dandy catch-all term to describe the behavior of women who didn't act the way society wanted them to. This could be anything from bona fide mental illness to causing trouble to...I don't know, sexual abnormalities.
Constance has mental illness in her family and her mother preemptively signed her up for these treatments for her "hysteria." Apparently, these treatments sometimes included manual stimulation to induce "hysterical paroxysms", or orgasms.
And what did they use to do this, apart from their hands?
Dildos! Vibrators! And water nozzles!
Not much has changed in the last 150 years!
(Image from Wikipedia)
Once a week, Constance is dressed to go to the doctor and then she disrobes and the doctor shoves a metal dildo in there and starts twisting it around and Constance hates it and is humiliated, obviously, but she also loves the orgasms, which makes her feel guilty, and self-blamey (I really am crazy). She's gotten addicted enough to the sensation that she's started masturbating furiously whenever she's alone, which only serves to reinforce her dysfunction.
One day, the Doctor is replaced by a comely new young doctor named Doctor Drake. And Constance is horrified (and yet also perversely delighted) that he is attractive. Horrified, because now she can no longer separate her physical arousal from its instigator, and delighted because ooooh, Dr. McDreamy has just met his Victorian-era match. But then Constance's mother must intervene because she is a bitch...
HYSTERIA just didn't really work as a 24-page short. Everything was so abrupt and I was very confused about what was going on until I read some of the other reviews on this site and then did some research about the treatment of hysteria in Victorian times. (What I know about hysteria is that it refers to "wandering womb" and was popularized by Hippocrates, that brilliant, misogynistic bastard, and was treated by forced hysterectomies. Owie.)
If this was a full length novel, and featured some actual character depth and plot arcs, I feel like HYSTERIA could have been more than decent. As it was...meh.
(review of free book)