Mar 20 2011 10:00am

The “Confronting the Quakers” Scene from Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm

Flowers from the Storm by Laura KinsaleOnly 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.

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Blythe Gifford
1. Blythe Gifford
I started crying with the first sentence of this scene. This is one of my favorite romances, perhaps THE favorite, of all time and you've reminded me why. Must go pull off the keeper shelf to reread.
Keira Soleore
2. KeiraSoleore
@Blythe: The story's amazing, isn't it? I love all of Kinsale's books but this one's in a class by itself.
A.J. Wilson
3. AJWilson
I've not had the chance to read Kinsale, but after reading this ... swoon, I'm going to see if I can get it RIGHT NOW on my iPad. Thanks for sharing, Keira!
Keira Soleore
4. KeiraSoleore
@AJ, I'm so glad you feel inspired you to pick up this book. I guarantee you won't regret reading it. And I also hope that it likewise inspires you to read her entire backlist.
Donna Cummings
5. Donna Cummings
I love this book, and I haven't read it for such a long time--it's way overdue for another read. :) Such a wonderful book. Thanks for reminding me about it.
A.J. Wilson
6. AJWilson
Bought! And sent directly to my iPad 'bookshelf' as a TBR very soon :-)
Blythe Gifford
7. ksb36
I agree--this book is in a class by itself. My favorite romance of all time. I have re-read it many, many times and the elegance of the writing still astounds me.
Blythe Gifford
8. njoireading
This is what a romance should be. The hero knowing what it is that makes his life complete-the unconditional love of his heroine. Maddygirl echos through me even years after I've read the story. It is one of the most emotional love stories I have ever read and still brings me to "my knees" when I re-read it. Anyone who has never read the book needs to and anyone who derides romance novels should read this, weep and know what keeps those of us who adore romance coming back!
Keira Soleore
9. KeiraSoleore
@AJ: Looking forward to reading what you have to say after you've read the book. :)

@Donna and @ksb36: Re-reads and re-reads galore. My copy is falling apart from all the times I've leafed through it, doing full reads and going back for those special moments. Every time I come away stunned by the power of Kinsale's prose and storytelling chops.

@njoireading: Well said! Every time some disparages romance, I look at my Kinsales and shake my head in pity that those naysayers have denied themselves such works of art, pleasure, and entertainment.
Cheryl Sneed
10. CherylSneed
This was my first - and still the best - Kinsale. I love me a good tortured hero, and Christian may be the all-time torturiest champ. Great scene - thanks Keira.
Louise Partain
11. Louise321
Never read it. Unfortunately I am not electronic yet so I will look for a copy on the web. Thanks for sharing, Keira.
Keira Soleore
12. KeiraSoleore
@Cheryl: SHADOWHEART was my first Kinsale and shocked me so badly, I didn't read Kinsale for a while. Then I picked upFOR MY LADY'S HEART and loved, loved it. After that I bought and read her entire backlist and was enthralled. But FFTS remains one of the most memorable of stories.

@Louise321: I found my current copy via the used books section of Amazon.

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting.
13. EvangelineHolland
I'm in the extreme minority, as this book left me incredibly cold and I just could not sympathize with how her Quaker beliefs were treated in the text. Yes, they were a genuine barrier between Maddy and Christian, but I felt frustrated by the "all or nothing" aspect of her choice, particularly since it painted such a black and white picture of her religion.
Blythe Gifford
14. southerngirl
@Evangeline Holland:
I totally agree with you. You said it perfectly about how Maddy's beliefs are treated in the text. The love story in this book is unique, but like you, it left me cold. The Quakers and their religion must have been more relatable and more worthy of empathy in reality than how it is/they are portrayed in the book.
Blythe Gifford
15. saralee
I recently discovered this book, after years of reading about how wonderful it was. There are no words, especially for the last half-dozen chapters. This particular scene, the penultimate in the book, is heartwrenching. And baby Diana - perhaps the most perfectly-captured infant in all romance-dom - left to "bide in an alley". As much as I love Loretta Chase, LORD OF SCOUNDRELS doesn't deserve to be #1 in the AAR all-time favorites poll if FFTS is only #6.

As for the Quakers - yes, I believe that they were fairly harsh with their members in terms of not following the rules of their Society. I believe Dolley Madison was "read out of Meeting" when she married James.
Jenny Brown
16. Jenny Brown
Kinsale was historically accurate in portraying how Quaker congregations treated people who married without the approval of the group. The Quaker congregations did expell people who didn't get the group's permission. There is a great deal of information about traditional Quaker practices in the book, Betsy Ross and the Making of America and in Deborah Cadbury's Chocolate Wars.

Beyond that, anyone who has ever been involved in an exclusive, cult-like religious group will recognize the dynamic Kinsale brings to life so poignantly. Religiously exclusive groups keep members faithful (and denying abuses withint the group) by cultivating the fear of expulsion and the belief that everyone not in the group is damned.

FFTS is one of the finest novels I've ever read in ANY genre, and I read a lot. It's also the book that made me want to write romance.
Blythe Gifford
17. Muriel
The audio version of "Flowers from the Storm" narrated by Nicholas Boulton brings it to life. Great pair of author and voice actor. I highly recommend it.
Lynne Connolly
18. Lynne Connolly
Kinsale's research is astonishing. Her Quakers were members of the Shoreditch Community, although she never names it, from which reformers like Elizabeth Fry (not coincidentally her husband founded the Fry's Chocolate company!) - I love how she blends those things like easter eggs in her books (like how you can find the Tardis in Google Maps, if you know where to look - that kind of easter egg). The asylum, severe though we consider it, was also a development of the Quakers, and one step towards trying to define the nature of mental illness and curing it, instead of just locking up the unfortunates. And Jervaulx has to be a powerful duke, or the story doesn't work. Why else would his family be so desperate to get an heir? Jervaulx isn't just a generic historical "duke," he's the real thing.
loved the story, that the h/h weren't perfect, that they have to fight for their happy ending.
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