She was born the daughter of a scholar.
As I read the prologue of this book I wondered how I could ever like the hero of this book? He's vein, selfish, careless, privileged, wealthy, and egotistical. I thought to myself the author is going to have a hard sell on the romance with this one where I was concerned because I thoroughly disliked the man. You know what? I truly love it when an author can take a character like this and turn him around in my eyes. Ms. Kinsale truly delivered with this one.
Early on in the book Christian, the Duke of Jervaulx, suffers what I suspect, from the symptoms described, is a stroke. He loses his ability to speak or understand what others are saying to him. His coordination is off and he's unable to do the simplest of tasks like buttoning a shirt. He has to relearn almost everything but before there is a light at the end of the tunnel, he's thrown into his own private hell. The doctor whose care he has been put in thinks there's no hope for him. Using techniques which today would seem rather barbaric and suffering abuse from one of his caretakers, he's helpless and prone to fits of violence. Maddy is his light and hope because she sees what no one else seems to be able to--the man who still resides inside. The relearning of words reminded me a little of what I recall in one of the older Helen Keller movies in it's emotional stirrings. My daughter has an audio processing disorder for which I once read a book called 'Like Sound Through Water' and the trouble with the understanding of spoken words reminded me of that condition. Certain sounds can't be heard by people with the disorder and so they struggle sometimes to figure out what a person is actually saying. Luckily, my daughter had nothing as severe as the Duke. I felt the anger, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness from being unable to communicate with others was portrayed well, and I could just imagine the pain of it all.
As for the romance, I liked how gradually the two fell in love. It was almost like seeing a complicated puzzle of connect the dots being solved where connecting any one of the many dots out of sequence could have thrown the whole outcome off. I enjoyed how the two gradually came to respect and depend on each other and each needed to give up some of their previous lifestyle which I think captures what a good marriage is composed of--compromise. What makes this romance unique is that these two are as different as day and night. Maddy's been brought up as a Quaker who is devoutly religious whereas Christian is not. Maddy has always lived virtuously and modestly whereas Christian lived recklessly with no regard for anyone but himself. Yet despite the differences and perhaps because of them the two fit perfectly together.
The song that came to mind as I was reading one was 'Something Good' by Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. The lyrics:
"Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth
For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good"
I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. It was an emotional roller coaster of a read that tugged at my heartstrings. I love how the author managed to capture so much emotion on paper. Plus, she managed to accomplish something I didn't think was possible--she made me like Christian. I felt his personality changed from that of an egotistical selfish jerk to a caring and loving individual. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a FAN rating--the temperature in the room seems to have suddenly gone up a couple of degrees and a fan would be nice.