Vote: ***** first half
** second half
As a newbie!romance reader, I spent a lot of time perusing sites to put together a TBR list. Flowers from the Storm appeared over and over in the suggested readings, everywhere on the internet. Often praised as the best romance novel I could hope for, I obviously had high expectations about it. Unfortunately, I find that they have been only half fulfilled.
The beginning had me mesmerised. I read the first half in a frenzy – reading at work, reading while walking in the street, etc. Everything seemed perfect. Laura Kinsale’s style – that had me since the start, and is thankfully something that stay also in the second half. I’m not a native English speaker, and was fascinated on one hand with Maddy’s Plain Speech, and on the other hand by Jervaulx’s fragmented, scattered sentences and thoughts. Besides, I’m a sucker for nurse/patient stories. I adored every second at Blythedale. The book seemed just a succession of perfect moment. The scene in which Maddy goes visiting Jervaulx at night. The kitten scene – it played in my head like a scene from Jane Campion’s Bright Star, soundless, all light and perfumes. The scene in which he starts crying in his London house, before the hearing. I was ready to give this book all the stars I could.
But afterwards, the descent begins. As the action moves from Blythedale to Jervaulx’ castle and various hiding spots, I felt that also the power balance shifted in Jervaulx’ favour. The point becomes that he has to recover his power and prestige. That he reconstruct his wealth. That he bends Maddy to his beck and call.
I felt Maddy shrink smaller, smaller as the action progresses. I loathed that she is tricked into following Jervaulx and then into marrying him. No, the balance wasn’t even. I never felt that she truly consented to that all. I never felt that she was truly aroused by him, that she loved him so much to submit to his will. I felt she was the one who lost in the bargain.
She is the one coerced to have physical contacts with him, and if I loathed the marriage, I loathed even more the BDSM streaks that Jervaulx shows. Once, he pins her to a door pulling the chain she wears and forces her to kiss him. “The chain to the whistle slid and tightened at her throat as he kept it his hand. He held her trapped, his smile turning into a mocking grin.” In another passage, soon after they get married, he circles her braid around her neck and pulls her with it. “He lifted the braid over her shoulder and curled it around her throat. Slowly, slowly, he increased the pull.” Am I supposed to find that sexy? It is not, at least not in my book.
Maddy resists so much to Jervaulx’ supposed charm, that the author is obliged to invent she is afraid of ghosts to put her in his bed. And that Maddy has, allegedly, a hidden covetous nature to make her go back to Jervaulx in the end.
Maddy has to give up her affiliation with the Quakers to stay with Christian. Repeatedly in the book, we are made to believe that Jervaulx is indeed better than her beliefs. The king himself vouches for this when he says, “Your marriage, is it? Ah, me – the principles of religion are sometimes a weight upon us, are they not? But you have a consolation in this fine husband of yours.” However, the more the narrative insisted on its importance, the more the futility of Jervaulx’s dukedom hit me. Lady de Marly states that, as a Duchess, Maddy could do more good than as a simple Quacker. I beg to differ. I’m all with Maddy when she says, “There are other things in the world besides thy frivolous ball. There are other things besides making thyself the great duke again!” Servants, expenses, thousands of pounds in luxuries: I couldn’t see the point in any of that. I simply wasn’t interested in watching Jervaulx return the one he was before his ictus. And I resented the exclusion of Blythedale from the plot. If Maddy and Jervaulx wanted to do something good, they could have gone back to the asylum and reformed it. Dismissed Larkin and punish him for his tortures, install Maddy as the director, who knows. Something could be done there.
Yes, Richard Gill was a better man, and the imbalance between Maddy and Christian upset me so that I rooted for him in the end. I wished Maddy’s character could be granted what *she* wished as well, not only what Jervaulx thought could benefit him. Unfortunately, this book turned out to be vindication of Mr. Jervaulx, and not at all what I hoped at the beginning. For a book whose Italian title is “The mathematician’s daughter” (La figlia del matematico), maths plays quite a small role in the end....Continua