Flowers From the Storm

By: Laura Kinsale

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx, is a dissolute rake and known seducer of women, but he is also a brilliant mathematician. He's been working on a new formula alongside a blind Quaker man whose daughter, Maddy, cares for him, and she often carries messages back and forth between the two men. Christian has never seen her in person, though, until he and her father present an academic paper together and he invites them to dine at his home afterward. Over their dinner, he takes note of Maddy's loveliness, but the next morning, he is to fight a duel against the husband of a woman he'd been bedding. As the duel commences, Christian collapses, having suffered an apoplexy. He barely survives and afterward, he's rendered incapable of speaking in a way that makes sense anymore. Believing him mad, his family has him committed to an asylum, where he is treated poorly, until Maddy comes along and becomes his nurse. With her by his side, Christian feels as though he finally has an ally, and under her patient care, he begins to show improvement. But his grasping family members wish to have him declared legally incompetent and stripped of his title, something that he cannot allow to happen. In a desperate bid to stop them, he begs Maddy to marry him, but even if he is successful in keeping his family at bay, can he convince Maddy to stay with him when she struggles to fit into his lavish lifestyle?

Archimedea Timms is a devout Quaker who has been caring for her father even since he went blind. While Christian's attentions toward her are flattering, she thinks he's a wicked man, but she is still rather saddened to hear of his supposed passing so soon after meeting him in person for the first time. Maddy decides to go to work for her cousin who runs an asylum, and she's shocked to find Christian there, muttering insensibly and violently acting out. However, when some of his words begin to make sense to her, she realizes that he isn't mad after all. Believing she's receiving a calling to help him, she convinces her cousin to allow her to be his nurse. Slowly he begins to make progress toward recovery, but when he fails his first competency hearing, it looks as though all might be lost until his grandmother comes up with a scheme to find him a wife so that he can produce an heir before the next hearing. However, Christian finds that he cannot bring himself to marry the woman his grandmother chooses. He only wants Maddy and ends up taking her on the run with him, while begging her to wed him instead. Although she isn't supposed to marry outside her faith, when put in an untenable situation, she finally agrees. However, once installed as the Duchess of Jervaulx, she realizes that everything about Christian's opulent lifestyle goes against all that she's been taught by her simple Quaker faith. When Christian seems to be doing the exact opposite of what she thinks is right in an effort to remain the duke, she may not be able to continue to help him even though she's fallen in love with him.


Flowers From the Storm is a stand-alone, historical, Regency romance that tells the story of Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx, and kind Quaker nurse, Archimedea "Maddy" Timms. Christian is widely known as a brilliant mathematician but also a dissolute rake, who lavishly indulges in worldly pleasures. Maddy is devout in her faith and the daughter of another equally brilliant mathematician who has been working on a new formula with Christian. The two meet when Christian and Maddy's father present a paper together at an academic gathering and then have dinner at Christian's home afterward. There, Christian makes note of Maddy's beauty, while she thinks him a wicked man. The very next morning, Christian is involved in a duel, during which he collapses on the field, having had an apoplexy (what we would commonly refer to now as a stroke). He barely survived and now has limited verbal function and violent episodes, so his family has him committed to a mental asylum, where he is mistreated and feels helpless until Maddy comes along. Her cousin runs the asylum and she has just started working there, when she chances to run across Christian in his cell. She understands what he's trying to communicate when no one else does, and believing she's had an Opening (or calling), she convinces her cousin to allow her to be Christian's nurse, even though it's considered unorthodox. Slowly she begins to make progress toward helping him recover, hoping to prepare him to go before a judge who will decide whether he's sane enough to actually be a duke anymore. Although the hearing doesn't go well, it leaves them with a small window of opportunity, which Christian's aunt hopes to exploit to quickly marry him off to a suitable bride so that he can impregnate her with an heir. However, Christian doesn't want just any woman, he wants only Maddy, and although Maddy isn't supposed to marry outside her faith, when her back is against the wall after a series of wild adventures, she makes the impetuous decision to do just that. But being wed to a duke and even falling in love him doesn't mean that she'll ever feel comfortable in his opulent world.

The story opens with Christian in bed with his mistress who is pregnant with his child, but he doesn't seem overly concerned that said child will end up being claimed by another man, namely her husband. This basically shows the sort of person he is, and it's the husband returning home early that leads to the duel at which Christian collapses. Afterward, his family essentially turns against him, with his devoutly religious mother believing it's his rakish ways that have caused this calamity and his sisters and their husbands only concerned with whether he'll be able to continue providing them with a never-ending stream of money. Add to that the fact that he can barely speak, and even then, only in what amounts to gibberish to most ears, and Christian feels very alone. When people can't understand him, it also causes frustration and anger, which makes him lash out violently, resulting in his family having him committed and petitioning the court to declare him insane. Then along comes his Maddygirl who becomes a lifeline to him. She doesn't believe that he's actually mad and patiently takes the time to try to understand his muddled attempts at communication. However, following the debacle of a hearing, Christian's she-dragon aunt, who's at least somewhat on his side--though for her own reasons--gives him two options: marry and produce an heir quickly before the next hearing or go back to the asylum. Since he would rather die than go back, he agrees to a hasty wedding, but ultimately it's only Maddy that he wants. After all but kidnapping her, and with the help of his two best friends, they go on an adventure, during which Maddy is finally persuaded to wed him. But convincing her to share his bed and stay with him forever when everything about his lifestyle goes against her beliefs will prove challenging.

I have to admit that Christian is a unique character to the romance genre and for that reason alone I appreciated him. I've read other romance heroes suffering from physical afflictions, but I can't recall any who'd had a stroke and couldn't communicate, and I can only think of one other that had been committed to an asylum. As one might expect, it isn't a walk in the park. Even in a facility like the one depicted in this story that was adequately staffed and run by a Quaker, the patients, especially ones deemed violent like Christian, were locked up in cells and treated abominably by the orderlies. Of course, since little was known back then about mental illness, patients like Christian were often misdiagnosed as mad and much of what passed for "treatment" was also abusive. For this reason and because all of his family except his aunt seemed eager to have him declared insane, I sympathized with him a great deal. I also understood in the beginning that many of his violent outbursts were the product of frustration and anger over not being understood and possibly some damage to the part of the brain that controls inhibitions. However, even after he begins to recover, he sometimes still lashes out. There's even a moment where he accidentally injures Maddy while trying to hit someone else, and while a part of me understood why he did it, it still made a me a little uncomfortable. He does eventually say that Maddy makes him want to be a better man, and gradually he does start to make strides in a more positive direction, but there's still an arrogance about him that made him a little hard to like at times. One other thing I appreciated about him was his mathematical genius. That only comes into play a few times, though, and I would have enjoyed seeing more of it.

Maddy is a devout Quaker woman who always follows the rules of her faith. The first time she meets Christian, she doesn't really like him much and thinks he's a wicked man. However, when she sees him reduced to the vulnerable state he's in at her cousin's asylum, she can't help but feel for him. After seeking the Light, she feels that she's being led to become his nurse and manages to convince her cousin to allow it. At first, she's a little afraid of Christian's violent outbursts, but gradually she comes to trust that he won't hurt her and makes progress on helping him recover. However, it's not quite enough to prove to a judge that he isn't insane. Knowing that Christian would do anything to avoid going back to the asylum, Maddy helps his aunt with the hasty wedding plans, which go awry when he runs away with her in tow. He tries to convince her to marry him, trusting that she would never send him back, but although she has feelings for him by this time, she doesn't think that she should marry "a man of the world." Eventually she capitulates, because she's fallen in love with him and thinks it's the best way to help him, which is what she still feels is her calling. But when she realizes that the affluence of his station goes against everything she's been taught as a Quaker, she doesn't think she can ever fit in his world, even if they can pull off making everyone accept that he isn't insane.

Maddy is a simple woman who doesn't care about wealth or position. She only cares about Christian's well-being and making sure that his family doesn't railroad him back into the asylum. For that reason alone, I thought she was the perfect person for him and I never doubted that she loved him. However, sometimes I felt like her religious beliefs started to get in the way of this being a truly heart-stopping story, at times making it feel more like a Christian inspirational romance even though it clearly isn't. I recently read another book in which a Quaker woman ended up marrying "a man of the world" and it didn't lead to anywhere near this much conflict of both the internal and external variety. I know a lot of unexpected baggage got dumped on Maddy near the end, too, but I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with a choice she makes at that point. I begrudgingly admit that it led to an emotional conclusion, but still it was a little frustrating for my tender heart. As for Maddy's insistence that she couldn't be both a Quaker and a duchess, while on some level that was true, I couldn't help agreeing with Christian's aunt when she confronted her about that. So while I did like Maddy, I didn't end up loving her the way I have with many other kindhearted, caregiver-type heroines.

For years, I've been hearing rave reviews for Flowers From the Storm, and if the sheer number of romance-author blurbers this book has are any indication, it's clearly been well-received within the genre. I've personally had mixed results with other Laura Kinsale books I've read in the past. There have only been a couple and while one received four stars from me like this one did, the other only rated a meh on my scale. Therefore, I went into reading Flowers From the Storm not really having any clue how it might pan out. I had hope that it might live up to all the hype for me, but ultimately I'd have to say that while I liked it and thought it was a good story, I didn't end up loving it like many other readers have. Part of it might be that Ms. Kinsale has a more literary quality to her writing style that IMHO doesn't lend itself well to the high emotions I expect from a romance novel. I also thought the book had an uneven pace, with parts of it kind of plodding along before something exciting happens, then it's right back to that languid pace until the next lively moment. At a chunky 553 pages, I couldn't help but feel that perhaps it drug on a little too long. Another thing that isn't entirely to my taste is that Ms. Kinsale really leans into the angst, conflict, and drama in her stories. I normally love a good angsty romance, but her books take it a little further than most others I've read. While this one didn't depress me like one of her other books did, it does have a rather heavy feel throughout. I do, however, give her credit for writing a very lovely ending for the story. While it may seem like I've given the book a strong critique, I did, as I mentioned earlier, appreciate the uniqueness of the story elements. I also applaud her for depicting the reality of mental health issues of the time and the conditions inside asylums. While it didn't officially receive keeper status from me, I would still recommend Flowers From the Storm to anyone looking for a romance read that's a little outside the norm.


Laura Kinsale


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