Wednesday, July 17, 2013

REVIEW: Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Published 1992 by Avon Historical Romance.

This book is my July selection for the #TBRChallenge hosted by Wendy the SuperLibrarian. This month's theme is 'Romance Classic,' interpretation of which is left to the participant. Wendy is very laid back like that. I chose Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale for my classic pick because it was published over a decade ago and is still widely mentioned and read by romance readers today. I so glad that I finally read this book, which I adored.

Christian Langland is the Duke of Jervaulx and a wealthy rake with no regard for morals. He's also a brilliant mathematician who at the opening of the novel is collaborating with a blind Quaker named John Timms on a mathematics paper. John Timms' twenty-five year old spinster daughter, Archimedea 'Maddy' Timms serves as the messenger of papers between her father and the duke. Although she never sees nor speaks to Langland, she is fully aware of his immoral behavior and as a Quaker she is quite repulsed by his character. However, her father has the utmost admiration for Langland's intellect and the two get alone quite well. When Maddy and her father are invited to join Langland for dinner one evening, she finds herself attracted to him nonetheless, even despite her unease with his flirting.

Later that very same night, Langland suffers from what is very likely a stroke when he is confronted by his mistress' husband in a duel. He is so severely impaired that his family allows society to believe him dead when he is actually only suffering from aphasia, or the inability to understand or express speech, written or spoken. His family ultimately confine him to an asylum because no one understands him, nor does he understand them. Out of extreme frustration, Langland lashes out violently so now not only does his family think him mentally disturbed, but violent also.

Months later, Maddy and her father are visiting Blythedale Halle, the asylum that Cousin Edward oversees when she happens upon the cell of a man who turns out to be none other than the Duke of Jervaulx. Maddy has intense empathy for Langland and in fact, is quickly able to discern that he is not so much mentally disturbed but rather extremely frustrated and scared about his inability to communicate. She feels a strong calling to help Langland overcome his disabilities and even be released from the asylum so the safety and well being of Christian Langland becomes her mission. Over the course of this lengthy novel, Maddy and Christian go through all sorts of chaotic, dangerous and frustrating situations, all of which is hugely stressful for both of them. For Christian, he is a brilliant man trapped in his own mind, so to speak, racked by incredible frustration as his family and society strip him of his dignity, power, autonomy and certainly his money. For Maddy, she is a simple woman of faith who has been raised with a strict set of beliefs that challenge her every step of the way as she is constantly questioning herself. To do what she feels is right in her heart or what she was taught to be right by her Quaker faith. Their story is one full of self-doubts, mistakes and manipulations, but in the end, love does conquer all.

It's pretty obvious why Flowers From the Storm has captured the hearts of so many romance readers over the years. Both the plot and characters are quite unique. I loved the fact that Kinsale doesn't slip one bit in the authenticity of her characters. That is, Langland's aphasia improves only slightly, and only as much as would be realistically expected within the time frame of his stroke. The reader is then forced to read Langland's broken speech on the page just as Maddy and the others would experience it. We are left with the same frustrations and misunderstandings that we would be if we were actually in the story ourselves. No narration shortcuts, which makes his character and story that much more believable. Similarly, Maddy's devotion to her Quaker faith is realistically steadfast. So much so that I was actually starting to think she was going to let this chance at love slip away just because of the rules of her faith, an outcome that's actually quite realistic even by today's standard, but not for me and likely not for most romance readers. While I often felt some frustration in Maddy's slowness to come around to acknowledging that her love for Christian is acceptable in the eyes of God, her struggles with her faith and with trusting herself were also very believable.

While I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, at times I felt the pacing was a bit long winded and at times I thought both Christian and Maddy left too many of their issues unspoken between them. Considering the immense struggles they were both facing, I expected them to share more elaborate and thought-provoking revelations about themselves and each other. Flowers From the Storm is definitely a memorable story and definitely worth reading!

4+ out of 5 stars


  1. It's been years now, but I loved this book when I first read it. I do have to agree with the long-winded part--I remember thinking something along those lines. Still, I snapped this up for my Kindle when it went on sale a while ago. I really want to re-read it.

  2. Great review Christine! :-D It's great that a book written 10 years ago can still be enjoyed to this day. I guess that's what is so great about romance and an authors writing style. :-) I enjoy different book challenges but this one seems more manageable when you are only focused on reading one book a month! I'll have to keep my eye out if she decides to do another one in 2014. Thanks so much for sharing about this book and your thoughts.

  3. Great review! I am ashamed to admit that I did not enjoy this book...the long-windedness of everything got to me and I found myself skipping too much just to try to finish. It's definitely different and unique though. :D

  4. I did enjoy this book and I believe a good choice as a classic. I believe it has just been made into audio and at some point I think I will listen to it as a way of rereading it.

  5. I re-read this book in 2009 as an ebook, but I first read it years ago. I love, love this book and think that Kinsale was at her best. Longwinded? I agree. But still, what a gorgeously executed romance and what memorable characters.

  6. I've always been reluctant to pick this one up because of the length and because I think I would find this type of story very frustrating, your review kind of just confirmed that. I don't think this one would be for me, though I'm glad you still enjoyed it and that it was realistic.

  7. I've read this a long time ago. I liked it but the fact that english is not my first language and Christian's troubles speaking didn't allow me to enjoy it as much as everyone else seemed to be doing at the time. I'll have to mark it for a reread soon.

  8. Hi all,
    Thanks for reading my review. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the writing was at times rather long winded. I think the honest portrayal and the uniqueness of the character's situations really make this book the favorite it is among romance readers. It is quite memorable, I think.

    paperbackdreamer Deanna, you can join this TBR Challenge any time you like. The more the merrier! The theme for August is steamy reads, but you don't even have to read to the theme! Think about it. In any case, I'm sure Wendy will host this challenge again in 2014. I hope, anyway! It's one of my favorites. :D

    Ana T. I could definitely see how Christian's speech would be inhibitive for someone for which English is not their first language. I don't blame you at all for finding it less enjoyable than others because of that.

  9. I loooooved this story!
    I also had some trouble with the language but the story was so beautifully written I could put my troubles aside to just enjoy it. Loved the scene where Christian tells Maddie she is a duchess at heart..really wonderful, and it still makes me sigh...... :)

  10. The Audio book is perfection. Amazon had/has a hugely reduced rate if you buy the book and audio book..$3-4 dollars I think for the audio version. The actor who narrates, Nicholas Bolton, brings the characters to life. Swoon worthy.
    Regarding the story itself, Kinsale's style is lovely. I never felt it was long winded but rather that it moved at quickly. I read it in one very long day, hurdling towards the ending, wanting to slow down...make the story last... but was unable to stop myself. I think to classify it as a only a romance novel or bodice ripper is unjust. I wish I had discovered it years ago.


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