Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Review: Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM – Quaker Heroine and Rake Hero Make for an Unusual, Brilliant Romance

Published in 1992, this historical romance moved the genre forward in a way others had not. Set in the late 1820s, it deals with the subject of physical malady leading to apparent (but not real) madness and the recovery that gradually restored sense and communication. It also involves the mind of a Quaker woman dealing with her growing feelings for a man she would otherwise find reprehensible.

Named for the great mathematician, Archimedea Timms (“Maddy”) is, at 28, a Quaker spinster who lives with her blind father helping him with his equations. It was through him, Maddy met “the mathematical duke,” Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx, for whom she has nothing but disdain. A rake and reprobate at 32, who lives his life as he wants, he also has a charitable side that would found a university where he invites Maddy’s father to teach. And then in a duel, while not wounded, he suffers a stroke that sends him to a rest home for the mentally unstable, where he again encounters Maddy who is working there. Having lost the power of speech and of understanding words, all but Maddy think him mad.

This story is very well written with meaningful dialog, richly drawn characters and an intricate plot. It deals with two worlds that come together in tragedy. The rakish duke with a life of opulence would not have found Maddy the Quaker girl so appealing, and perhaps she would not have found him so sympathetic, if not for his stroke. It makes for a very different romance. Some of it was slow and difficult to read, not that the writing wasn’t good, but his struggle to speak and be understood, though brilliantly done, was still difficult to read. I agree with the other reviewers who reacted negatively to Maddy’s unkind treatment of Christian, made all the worse for her being a woman of faith. She criticized and belittled him, often failing to support him in his hour of need. It took her an awfully long time to see the Truth. As one character said, I didn’t care if she was a Hindu; she had a wonderful man who loved her and she kept resisting a future with him. I just wanted to slap her. But it is truly a compelling story and I recommend it.

If you liked this one, I highly recommend to you Penelope Williamson’s THE OUTSIDER.

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