I hate love stories. I hate stories written purposely because there will be a romance in the end, and all we get are a string of sex scenes punctuated by poor dialogue and a laughable plot. I don’t mind a bit of romance sprinkled into a plot otherwise meant to be something different. I don’t mind a coming of age novel with a blossoming romance between its pages.
But let me make it so very clear thatI hate erotic novels with a passion. They are sleazy and make me roll my eyes. Sex scenes are just porn, really, cheap and designed to enthral.
However, this book was not an ‘erotic novel’. I was duped into this ‘historical romance’. I was offered the title on a Kindle buying spree. Flowers from the Storm – Laura Kinsale.
It was £1.99 and the ratings were high, so I thought, who cares for a blurb and bought it anyway. I started reading the first page on Saturday night.
Oh, some arrogant rich man is having sex with another man’s wife. Classy.
Then the man began to have a pounding headache. You know an author does not insert a pounding headache, one that makes one incapable of performing basic needs, for no reason. I was intrigued, but also tired, so I put the kindle away and closed my eyes to sleep.
I didn’t touch it again until Sunday night, when it ensnared me in a vortex of mathematical equations, and a headache that morphed suddenly into lunacy. What.
I desperately wanted to stay awake that night reading but the husband was getting irritated with the light of my kindle and I was tired.
I lay like a foetus all Monday, folks. I read eight hours straight, I only stopped once because a woman called me about a job interview and another called about a gym membership. I did not eat and did not drink. I was lost in this world.
This world of mathematicians and Quakers and dukes and it sounds so silly and frivolous but there was something so tangible and real about it. I was ensnared, I tell you, bewitched by someone’s hand. Drawn by characters on a page into a world I did not want to leave, and was not ready to leave at 1:10am last night when I turned the last digital page and felt an ache of loss in my heart.
I didn’t expect to love this romance the way I did. So I thought about it. I desperately wanted these two characters to be together by the halfway point. I was on tenterhooks throughout the book, and upon glancing down at see how much I’d read, realised that even at 19% my heart was beating furiously. At 30% I felt nauseous with anticipation. At 50% I felt dread and my nerves were clanging.
Not halfway through the book and already we were being taken on a roller coaster of small literary climaxes. Of fiends and cold baths to cure ailments of the mind and human apes. A field day of all emotions readily available to man, inspired by the actions of people who do not even exist.
The story was compelling. The premise rich and intriguing. The plot vibrant, never ending.
A rogue duke with a pounding headache pronounced a lunatic and put in an asylum. His mother thinks it is a punishment from God for his waywardness. He had some sort of stroke which rendered him incapable of communication, but to medical practitioners, who didn’t know this, he appeared a lunatic. I felt I was being exposed to the depths and layers of nineteenth century thought and medicine, of notions of ‘propriety’, of religion, and this made the story so plausible. Nothing like the crudely assembled plots of other romances I have tried and hated. I was reading about the treatment of ‘lunatics’ – in this case a man with temporal loss of some cognitive part of his brain due to an accident, but also the ‘lunatics’ around him – the stigma with which mental illnesses were viewed, the class system; I was reading about all this and more, and not just a historical love story.
The characters did not fall in love upon their first meeting. There was too much between them, and too many differences in who they were and where they came from for this to be even a passing thought in their heads. After the ‘accident’, and the lunatic asylum, there was a beautiful, gradual build up. Slow, progressing character development, mind development, and after the halfway point, a strong sense of duty deteriorating and blossoming into something richer, stronger, more passionate. There was rich pain, all the characters’ misgivings, their drawbacks, their fears and their hopes painted so richly. Their pain was my pain, literally, I loved it!
That is why it satisfied beyond belief. It was satisfying as ‘romantic literature’ – something I previously despised. However I genuinely feel as though something is now missing from my life. And I know this feeling very well. I had it first at the tender age of nine after reading a book so rich my entire existence paled in comparison. Of course my existence hasn’t paled, but doing daily things now feels irritating. I feel like I need to go back into that world, and I can’t, and I want to be severely upset, but I can’t because the book had a happy ending. See? Why do I react this way if the book ends on a good note? Why do I feel so incredibly dissatisfied, even though I honestly loved reading it? My gut feels wrenched, folks. Perhaps this book awoke in me something I didn’t know I wanted? I want – I don’t know what I want – and it’s all this book’s fault.