Flowers from the Storm

Grade : A

Narrated by Nicholas Boulton

One of the first books I read when I got back into reading romance a few years ago was Flowers From the Storm. I remember being caught up in heart pounding fear for Jervaulx as he was mistreated in the asylum; of feeling rage on his behalf. I remember being so captivated by the story that I had a book hangover for days and nothing else would satisfy. In fact, I loved the story so much, I didn’t go back for a re-read, just in case the experience could not be matched.

And now, Ms. Kinsale has published the audiobook. She handpicked Nicholas Boulton after a long process to get just the right narrator. And she succeeded. The short version of this review: it is excellent, you should buy it immediately, OMG, Nom nom nom.

Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx, is a rake. He’s also clever (in mathematics and other things) and deeply committed to the successful and innovative running of his estates and various business interests. Archimedea (Maddy) Timms is the daughter of mathematician John Timms, a man Jervaulx has been working with regarding “new geometry.” The Timms are Quakers and Maddy is very disapproving of Jervaulx, his (lack of) morals, and his excesses.

Jervaulx suffers a stroke of some kind and is left unable to communicate. Believing him to be an idiot, his family confines him to an asylum. As it happens, Maddy’s cousin runs the madhouse and while working there, she comes across Jervaulx. She discerns that Jervaulx is not mad at all and Maddy becomes his salvation – in more ways than one.

The scenes wherein Jervaulx is struggling to think clearly, to remember words, to try and communicate, were heart wrenching. His frustration, his rage, his humiliation – they were all on the page when I read the book, but they are present in the audiobook in a new and even more compelling way.

Nicholas Boulton is a master narrator and I imagine Flowers from the Storm was a vocal workout. It has a large cast of characters and Jervaulx’s speech changes depending upon his state of health. But if it was difficult for Mr. Boulton, the listener would never know. The listening experience was easy and delicious.

I was able to discern every single character in the book from voice alone. Each male character had a separate and distinct sound as did each of the female characters. Maddy’s voice was a softer tone rather than a higher pitch. If that can be called a complaint, then that’s the only one I have. However, the older women sounded more female to my ears.

I can’t think of many narrators I’ve heard who are able to perform so many distinct character voices. They aren’t just different to one another; they areperfect for each person. Durham is urbane, Fane bluff, John Timms kindly but a little vague, Edward Timms pompous, etc., etc. The characters are superbly realized.

When I first read Flowers from the Storm, I felt such sympathy for Jervaulx that I had little for Maddy by the end. She struggles greatly, torn between her faith and the Quaker lifestyle and her deep and abiding love for the complicated, brilliant Jervaulx. But my heart broke for both characters this time. I felt much more clearly Maddy’s dilemma. Some of it is no doubt due to how my own taste has changed but a good deal of it was due to Nicholas Boulton’s amazing depiction of Maddy. I love this book even more than my first read which earned 5 stars.

The first love scene is particularly compelling as Maddy’s desire for Jervaulx is outweighed by the nevertheless very strong demands of her faith. It is so well performed especially Maddy’s thoughts.

“Stop. Oh Stop. Say stop. But it’s too late.

Too late. Because God forgive me I love thee more than my own life.”

My breath caught and, honestly, it took me a while to get it back. I had to stop what I was doing.

There is humor, romance and angst (oh, the angst!!). The plot is clever – the consequences of Jervaulx’s stroke are far-reaching and affect all of his many retainers, tenants and dependents. There is real tension between Maddy’s deeply held beliefs and the excesses of the beau monde. The manner in which Jervaulx’s stroke is treated, both in the text and vocally, is authentic and moving. In a genre where men always have the most agency, this book is unique in that Jervaulx loses it and has to fight to regain it. And all of that tension was beautifully delivered direct to my listening ear.

It is wonderful. Get it.

Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A+ and Book Content: A

Kaetrin Allen

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