Only Laura Kinsale could take on a victim of stroke and make him into a worthy hero.
Christian, Duke of Jervaulx, the hero of Flowers from the Storm is by no means to be pitied; oh, he’s a victim of circumstance, but not a pitiable creature.
In fact, perhaps he is an admirable character: His own formidable intelligence and determination, combined with the patience and perseverance of heroine Archimedea Timms help reverse many of the speech issues that a stroke leaves Christian with.
But in times of stress, the words get as muddled up in his head as at the beginning of his illness. As duke, Christian is used to getting what he wants when he wants it. And he desperately needs his Maddygirl, as he calls her, because she’s the only one who stands between sanity and madness, hope and despair.
So in desperation, he forces her to marry him, to renounce her Quaker upbringing, and brings her to pleasure time and time again.
In the end, however, Maddy cannot reconcile his maneuvering and the manipulations of her Quaker Friends. She returns to her roots and prepares a paper that will renounce Christian as her husband because Quakers do not consider themselves bound by the rules of non-Quakers. Christian crashes Maddy’s presentation to the Meeting committee as a last-ditch bid for her heart.
Christian felt a sinking scarcity of breath as she rose. [ . . . ] He took hold of the framing of the door behind him, gripping it hard. [ . . . ]
'Truth!' Christian shouted, staring at her, a mindless echo of himself, the only word that came. [ . . . ] Wrong! He had to tell her that. He tried to tell her and hit the wall—the bars, the jacket and chains and words throttled before they ever got to his throat, imprisoned in his brain. [ . . . ]
In his furious desperation he held his ground. He stood there pulsating with shame and ferocity, breathing like a jungle creature, a miserable mad idiot standing in front of them.
'Better!' The word slammed through, a shout. He spread his arms. 'Look! Me! Can’t talk sinner! His voice battered the bare walls of the room as he pointed at Gill. 'Think he’s . . . better?' He sneered at the Mule. 'Think you . . . so hold . . . deserve . . . my wife?' Turning his back, he lifted the paper toward the solemn men in the galley. 'Who wrote this? You?' He brandished it at the sober faces? 'Or you? Not her. Not her . . . say I’m—enemy.' Christian shook his head and made a disbelieving groan. 'Maddy . . . “fornication”?' He was halfway between a laugh and tears. 'I called it . . . love for you. Before God . . . love . . . honor . . . my wife . . . cherish all my days. I said it. Still truth, Maddy. Still the truth . . . in me, and always. [ . . . ]
'It was . . . you,' he said. 'Duchess. You . . . took me out of there. You married . . . duke.' He pointed at the floor. 'You tell me now—go down on my knees, and I will do it. The Devil’s gift. Not pearls, flowers . . . gowns. I give you . . . selfish, arrogant bastard . . . what I am, and I can do. I give you . . . my daughter. . . .'
Every time I read this, it wrings my heart. How hard he's trying to overcome his difficulty; how much he's straining to make her understand how much he loves and honors her. This is his worst nightmare: fear of losing his Maddygirl, his handicap, speaking of private things in front of an unsympathetic crowd, and knowing how stress worsens everything for him. And yet, he doesn't care about any of that. He's focused solely on her and what he wants to convey to her. This hero deserves all the lauds that can be sung in his name.
Keira Soleore is an aspiring Medieval and Regency historical romance writer and the comments moderator for IASPR's Journal of Popular Romance Studies. On the web, she can found at Cogitations & Meditations, on her website, and on Facebook.