Flowers from the Storm is a very emotional story about a man (Christian Langland) stricken with a catastrophic stroke which leaves him unable to understand or speak, and is committed to a 19th century insane asylum by his family, who thinks he's gone "mad." It's a really compelling story about a man's struggle to recover his health and rebuild his life against overwhelming odds. A romance develops, but that story is (almost) secondary in my opinion. This is Kinsale at her absolute best. Her website indicates that she had a family member suffer a stroke when Kinsale was quite young and it's apparent that Kinsale did a lot of research for this book. The writing and characterization of Christian are so authentic that you develop a great deal of empathy for him to the point where you intensely feel his frustration and despair at being locked inside a body that will not cooperate.
It so happens that the man stricken by the stroke is a Duke and also a brilliant mathematician. In the meantime, Christian's family is trying to have him declared incompetent, permanently committed to the asylum and stripped of his title. A Quaker woman, Maddy, has volunteered to help her cousin who manages what is considered a progressive insane asylum (for the time). Maddy is filling in for her cousin's wife (who was his clerical assistant) who has taken a pregnancy-related leave of absence. Maddy had met the Duke briefly when he and her father presented their mathematical work at a meeting of the Analytical Society and the Duke invited them to dinner at his estate afterward.
During a tour of the asylum, Maddy sees the Duke, who is chained in restraints (due to his violent behavior) and she has what the Quakers call an "Opening," believing she was sent there (by God) to help him. She speaks to him and treats him kindly and for the first time, he calms down. She seems to be the only one he responds to, (probably because she treats him like a human being) and she comes to the conclusion that he is not "mad" but "maddened." Against strong opposition, She requests to be his caretaker. She is the only person who has treated him like a human being rather than an animal and he immediately develops a strong attachment to her.
The book is a very emotional read, at times heartbreaking, but outstanding and very compelling. I must say it's not an easy read--the first 100 pages or so were downright painful to read (never cried at the BEGINNING of a book before), but it gets more optimistic after that. However, as the Duke slowly recovers, Maddy becomes more and more critical of him and his lifestyle, which goes against everything Quakers believe. I found Maddy's "holier than thou" attitude a little irritating, however. Maddy and Christian fall in love and Maddy is forced to choose between her religion and Christian. I love the characterization of Christian and his frustration with his life changing illness and struggle to recover.
Definitely a keeper and I'm very picky about what I keep. Even my husband wants to read it now after hearing me rave about it.
One of the best romances I've ever read. Seriously. Very different premise from the usual mamby-pamby feel-good stories. It's a non-stop roller-coaster ride from the first page to the last, a book so good that when reading it for the 5th time I found myself stopping at certain passages and thinking, "Wow, HOW did she write this??"
And the love scenes.... stunning, sexy, and wonderfully different. You won't see any cliches in this book. Christian's and Maddie's story is touching, amusing, heart-wrenching, and just about any other emotion you can imagine. You feel like you're right there through each scene experiencing everything the characters do.
Believe me, if you pick up no other Romance, you MUST read this one.
From the back of the book (which intrigued me enough to buy it, which rarely happens!)...
"He is London's most notorious rakehell--a charming, irresistible seducer possessing a brilliant mind and reckless passions. Until, in the wake of a shocking tragedy, he is condemned to a world of shadows...and madness.
An innocent beauty of modest birth and simple faith, once she feared the dashing nobleman who awakened within her feelings she had never known. Now she has come to free him from his solitary torment--never dreaming her warm, healing touch will etermally bind them together in need, in desire...and in love."
I always enjoy Laura Kinsale! I particularly like her heroes that are flawed. This partifcular hero is your typical womanizing rake until he has a stroke that affects his speech. Suddenly he's not so popular any more. He also develops a nasty temper in his frustration to communicate and his damaged pride in the man he has turned out to be. In comes a Quaker woman who thoroughly disapproves of his lifestyle. Two very unlikely people come together in a great romance. Especially good is the scene where, after she has left him, he comes into her church service and finally swallows his pride to tell her how he feels, in his halting and very difficult speech that will make you cry as he struggles to communicate his feelings. Ms. Kinsale always delivers the unique romance that touches on some of the more unspeakable elements of our human nature.
This book is the PERFECT example of the old cliche' "you can't judge a book by its cover". I was confused by the effusive praise for this story, thinking it just another dime store romance... judging by the cover. Never has that cliche hit home so strongly as when I started reading. Ms. Kinsale has taken an ordinary historical and completely turned it into a deep and riveting story with a richness seldom seen in this genre. In fact, I think the publishers have done a huge injustice to such a fine book by lumping it among the common. It is so VERY much more.
The main reason "Flowers" rises so far above is the subject matter itself. Kinsale has taken a young, prolific and unrepentant jaded rake and thrown him into the nightmare of experiencing a massive stroke, 19th century-style. She then adds a circumspect Quaker girl as his nurse and only hope for sanity or redemption in the asylum he is imprisoned in. The reader is led to see the horrific opinions and practices employed in that era before understanding, as we experience all the emotion, frustration and desperation felt through the eyes of this highly intelligent young man battling to re-learn how to think, talk and move again, all as the world labels him an imbecile and a lunatic.
We also experience the struggle of a young Quaker girl thrust into the rich and materialistic world of the aristocracy. Fighting to live her faith and keep her integrity as she unwillingly falls in love with this tortured Duke. The principles of honesty, frugality and total abstinence from carnal temptations seem totally nonexistent in the world she is thrust into.
Both stories are told with amazing compassion and unbelievable depth in understanding. Two subjects so common, yet so overlooked are addressed so well that I literally ached and cried along with the characters. Most important, I walked away from this story a much better person for having read it. THAT, my friends is a 5 star accomplishment in anyones book!
There are a couple of mildly steamy scenes, easily skipped if needed
This is one of the best historical romances I have ever read.