Monday, February 25, 2013

(Review) Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Title: Flowers from the Storm
Author: Laura Kinsale
Published: October 1, 1992 (Avon)
Rating: Staying in Tonight
Format: eBook, purchased
Summary: The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant - and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the "D of J" in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rakehell can be irresistible, and even his most causal attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms.

Then one fateful day she receives the shocking news - the duke is lost to the world. And Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

But she never dreamed her gentle, healing touch would alter his life and her own so completely - and bind them together in need, desire...and love.

Oh my goodness, you guys. This book was like nothing I had ever read before! Seriously. I read this one because I have been trying to explore some of the older romance novels to understand the romance genre more fully, reading some of the romance "classics" that are heralded on various Best Of Romance lists. First thing you need to know: That blurb up there? Disregard it. It's lame. The important thing? This book is a romance between Christian, Duke of Jervaulx, a brilliant mathematician who is unable to speak due to a stroke, and Maddy, a British Quaker. Intrigued now? I was, too.

The best thing about this book, hands down, is the originality of the plot. But a very close second is the writing style. See, the easy way out of this story would just to have the entire thing be told from Maddy's point of view. Nothing wrong with that, and it would have been a good story. But it would not have been nearly as complex. It would not have been great. And great it was. Christian's POV was absolutely fascinating. Because the stroke had impacted the language part of his brain, he had difficulty processing what was said around him (as well as reading, writing, and speaking). And you got to see that! Using a method very Stream of Consciousness-esque, Kinsale portrayed Christian's thoughts and understanding of the world around him. And you had to sort through the language to figure it out, as well. It made for more difficult reading at times, but ultimately was completely and totally worth it. It made me appreciate Christian's struggle so much more.

As for Maddy (short for Archimedia. Can you say OUCH?), she was a very interesting character as well. As a member of the Society of Friends, she had grown up in a completely separate world from the duke. The only reason they were even connected in the beginning is because her father - also a mathematician, but blind - and Jervaulx were collaborating on a mathematical project, and she was, essentially, the messenger. She was very devoted to her beliefs and her principles, and I liked that about her. However, Maddy had to grow and come to some realizations about herself and the world throughout the book, and it was interesting to watch how this progressed.

Obviously, this book contained a lot of things about which I know almost nothing. I know the basics of how a stroke can impact your brain, and I basically only know stereotypical things about Quakers. Therefore, I cannot vouch for the authenticity, but I can tell you that it felt authentic to me. It broke my heart to see how little the doctors understood mental illnesses and conditions back in that time period, and therefore how they treated the patients. But it was very realistic; they simply didn't know better.

The book was a little difficult to follow in the beginning because Maddie and her father spoke in Plain Speech, using "thee" and "thou" and such. But I grew accustomed to it quickly and hardly noticed it as the book went on. One thing I liked in this book was the various relationships and how they were all different and complex, from family to friends to the romance. Oh, the romance. The love story between these two was simply splendid. They also had one of the most beautifully written and emotionally impacting love scenes I've ever read. Really, I just loved this book in general. Another thing I appreciated about it was that while the story was complex, it was without Huge Drama stemming from the Uber Evil Super Villain of all Villainy, which is usually totally unnecessary. I kept waiting for it to pop up, and it didn't, which made me happy.

I can see why Flowers from the Storm is one of the most beloved romance novels of all time. It is a truly beautiful and utterly unique story. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romance and/or original love stories.

[Unfortunately, my favorite quote from this book is fairly spoilery and way more powerful within the context of the book. But I like this line, too, which is the opening.]

He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate.

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