Leigh Kramer's Reviews > Flowers from the Storm

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
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Re-read 3/5/22: Now that Vicky, Charlotte, Hannah, and I have read all of Kinsale’s work, we decided to re-read this to end our Kinsale scholarship, as we’d read it independently before we started our buddy read project. I’m raising my rating to 4.25 stars. It’s my third favorite Kinsale (For My Lady’s Heart remains first in my heart, followed by Shadowheart) and I continue to be astounded by Kinsale’s writing and what she did around language here. Truly impressive stuff.

I struggled with Maddy the first time I read this and she was no easier to take the second time around. But I recognize that’s mostly because she’s bringing up some of my religious baggage than anything to do with her character. I'll still take her over most of Kinsale's FMCs in the books I rank after my top three. I’m always going to take issue with any religion that would oust a member for marrying or spending time with someone outside their faith. Although her sanctimonious self-righteous obstinacy went on longer than necessary. I was just so ready for her to get off her moral high horse. But I really enjoyed her at the beginning and the end. It's a strong emotional arc, regardless of my personal frustration with her. Also difficult to take the second time around: the first sex scene. It is extremely dubious consent and I don’t like that the burden was on Maddy to stop him when a) she didn’t really know anything about sex, b) he knew she didn’t want them to consummate the marriage and they had not had a conversation where she changed her mind, and most importantly, c) the absence of “no” does not equal good consent.

So yes, some elements do not age well but this is still a tour de force of emotions. Lots of feels about Christian and his Maddygirl.

Original Review:
Flowers From The Storm is much beloved in Romancelandia. I read my first Laura Kinsale only last month (For My Lady’s Heart) and expected I would love this one just as much. To my surprise, it didn’t have the same magical effect on me but I do see why people feel so strongly about it.

There are some truly magnificent scenes: Christian describing Maddy to her father who hadn’t seen her face since he went blind 18 years ago, Christian and Maddy playing with kittens, Christian being reunited with his dogs and friends. Yes, there’s a theme. I was very into seeing Christian re-experience the world and reclaim what he lost after he has what appears to be a stroke. He’s not the same person as he was before. Pre-stroke Christian did some pretty terrible things, including sleeping with a married woman. Post-stroke Christian becomes a man who is worthy of Maddy and that’s an evolution well worth watching.

I’m not sure about this from a mental health/disability/stroke recovery perspective. Christian’s family sent him away to an asylum, believing him to be mentally unwell or developmentally disabled. But also they were just the worst and they never really got the comeuppance I believe they deserved. I kept wanting to yell at everyone that clearly all he needed was some occupational and speech therapies! I don’t know when those treatments began but still. It was very hard to read about his time at the asylum. He was understandably confused and angry about what was happening to him, as well as unable to communicate, although he does still know complicated mathematics. He’s also physically abused by one of the caregivers there and I really wanted Larkin to suffer. I was very relieved once Christian left the asylum but the threat of being returned against his will is a constant specter, as is the competency hearing.

Just before I started reading this, Rachel McMillan DMed me the astute observation that this is an inspirational romance, even if inspirational romance readers wouldn’t see it as such. Maddy is a Quaker through and through. She believes she’s called by God to help Christian, which is rather ironic given her distaste for the Duke at the start of the book. She’s constantly trying to discern how to best hear God’s will and figure out how she can best aid Christian. I really admired her for this, especially because her cousin who ran the asylum was not initially on board with this plan. Her care is the key to Christian's eventual recovery and had she not received a Concern, he likely would not have gotten better. I also admired how they esteemed equality and did not view other people as higher or lower than them.

I'm not super familiar with what Quakers believe so it was interesting to observe the customs...but to be honest, they seemed like such a miserable lot. There’s so much self-abnegation and self-denial about superficial things. It felt very repressive. Christian describes it as “her obtuse morality” and that felt spot on to me. As the story continued, I struggled with Maddy. It was so clear to me what she needed to do to help Christian and yet she kept resisting or thinking she knew better, when really she didn’t. On the one hand, I could understand it would be difficult to change your way of life—marrying Christian means she can no longer be Quaker and that would be an immense loss for her. But on the other hand, she felt called to help Christian so why wouldn't she just got on board with the program already?! She was so self-righteous. IT'S OKAY TO WEAR A PRETTY DRESS AND ENJOY NICE THINGS AND HAVE A HOT DUKE HUSBAND, MADDY.

All this aside, I came to adore Christian and his Maddygirl.
"I'm afraid," she whispered. "I'm afraid of what thou wilt do to my soul and my heart."
"Your heart...is precious to me," he said quietly.”

There were so many ways he looked out for her and I loved seeing that side of him.

That said, Christian doesn’t always treat Maddy well, in part because he’s frustrated by his limited ability to communicate, as well as her highhandedness. But I saw those scenes as a part of his rehabilitation, not an indication of his character. Although given how he sometimes acted in his previous life, that’s not out of the question. This is an old school romance and consent wasn’t always handled the best, particularly their first time. It's very dubious consent. I wasn’t sure it was realistic for him to be ready for physical intimacy or capable of consent at that point. Nor did I think the impetus should be on Maddy to say no if she wasn’t ready when she’d just been saying they should not consummate the relationship.

Laura Kinsale’s language choices worked to great effect. Not only do we have Maddy’s formal Quaker speech, we also get Christian essentially re-learning how to think and speak. His POV is initially fragmented and broken as he makes sense of the world and then grows to be more complete. He thinks of Maddy as “thee-thou prim” which is such a good takedown. Even when his language has mostly returned, strong emotion can overwhelm him and deprive him of words, leading him to use those fragments again. And because he’s a Duke, he can hide and get away with a lot just through an imperious stare or one word order. It’s brilliantly put together and I got so much enjoyment from seeing how Kinsale built the story in this way.

A few last disjointed thoughts. This book had the wildest wedding scene I’ve ever read. It was glorious. There was some marvelous humor sprinkled in and it helped balance out some of the harder parts. I don't know if it was on purpose but Maddy giving Christian a foot rub with her long hair flowing around her gave me definite Mary Magdalene vibes.

Characters: Maddy is a 28 year old white Quaker woman. Christian is a 32 year old white Duke and mathematician. His dogs are Devil and Cassie. (view spoiler) This is set in England during King George's reign.

Content notes: MMC has a stroke and is thought to be dead, institutionalization of MMC, physical abuse of patients, family trying to get MMC declared incompetent, ableism, internalized ableism, infidelity (MMC has affair with a married woman at the start of the book), concern of miscarriage ((view spoiler)), pregnant secondary character (woman with whom MMC had affair), illegitimate child, racism (not countered), negative stereotypes about Native and Romani people, Romani slur, slut-shaming, religious shaming, FMC’s father is blind due to past illness, alcohol, on page sex, dubious consent (first sex scene), gendered insults, gender essentialism, ableist language, wet nurse mentions recent death of her baby, mention of past death of siblings (including one due to scarlet fever)
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Reading Progress

October 19, 2019 – Shelved
October 19, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
February 1, 2020 – Started Reading
February 1, 2020 –
page 33
5.84% "Christian describing Maddy to her father who hadn’t seen her face since he went blind 18 years ago. 😭"
February 2, 2020 –
page 101
17.88% "Not sure about this from a mental health/disability/stroke recovery perspective but it sure is tugging on all of my heartstrings."
February 3, 2020 –
page 122
21.59% "They're playing with kittens! Such a fun scene."
February 3, 2020 –
page 146
25.84% "All I can say is Larkin better suffer for his mistreatment of Christian and any other patient there. I'm so mad at Maddy for not staying close to Christian. What a dumb move!"
February 4, 2020 –
page 182
32.21% "His family is the very worse and I want them all to suffer."
February 5, 2020 –
page 253
44.78% "Christian being reunited with his dogs and friends was pretty great. I'm so frustrated on his behalf that Maddy isn't getting with the program...even though I know his expectations are kind of bananas."
February 6, 2020 –
page 282
49.91% "That is the wildest wedding scene I’ve ever read!"
February 6, 2020 –
page 316
55.93% "Maddy is really annoying me. Just get on board with the program already!"
February 7, 2020 –
page 365
64.6% "I don't know if this is on purpose but Maddy giving Christian a foot rub with her long hair flowing around her is giving me definite Mary Magdalene vibes."
February 7, 2020 –
page 385
68.14% "I'm so over her self-righteousness."
February 7, 2020 –
page 425
75.22% ""I'm afraid," she whispered. "I'm afraid of what thou wilt do to my soul and my heart."
"Your heart...is precious to me," he said quietly."
February 8, 2020 –
page 437
77.35% "The Puritan lady doth protest too much."
February 8, 2020 –
page 477
84.42% "Of course he’s doing all this to save them! If she’d get off her high horse for one second, she’d have already known that. So freaking annoying."
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: buttoned-up-fmc
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: disability
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: forced-proximity
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: historical-romance
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: marriage-of-convenience
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: mental-health
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: pets
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: religion-in-romance
February 8, 2020 – Shelved as: virgin-main-character
February 8, 2020 – Finished Reading
February 24, 2020 – Shelved as: good-grovel
August 2, 2020 – Shelved as: road-trip
December 7, 2020 – Shelved as: buddy-read
February 28, 2022 – Started Reading
March 5, 2022 – Shelved as: angst
March 5, 2022 – Shelved as: friendship
March 5, 2022 – Shelved as: gamechanging-romance
March 5, 2022 – Shelved as: re-read
March 5, 2022 – Shelved as: stem
March 5, 2022 – Shelved as: pregnancy-baby-kid-epilogue
March 5, 2022 – Finished Reading
July 17, 2022 – Shelved as: peerage
October 30, 2022 – Shelved as: laura-kinsale-project

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