My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had some very complicated feelings about this book.
I’m generally a huge fan of Kinsale’s work. The Prince of Midnight is, hands-down, one of my favorite romances, which I reread fairly often.
This has some things in common with that novel, particularly, the jerky hero who is “brought low” by his disability, finds love with an awesome, yet prickly intelligent woman, learns to be less of a jerk, and moves on to a better life with an understanding that being an asshole to everyone you meet isn’t actually a good thing. So, the “overcoming toxic masculinity through disability” trope, if that’s a thing.
In this novel, Christian (an unrepentant rake) has a stroke and is institutionalized because he is thought to be mad. His family is trying to disinherit him by having him declared incompetent.
Archimedea (Maddy), the Quaker daughter of his mathematical partner (Maddy’s father is blind), ends up as his caregiver through A Series Of Events. She eventually has to wrestle with her faith as she falls in love with someone outside of her community.
As much as I bought their initial attraction/different worlds thing, I had great difficulty with the relationship development itself. Christian is, mostly, still a selfish jerk. And while he is getting better, he is still predominantly entitled (from his perspective) to Maddy’s time, love, and care, over the care of her blind father in many cases.
Maddy didn’t feel to me like she had a ton of agency here; maybe that’s because her decision to care for Christian is initially a religious awakening, which then gets tied into her having the hots for him. But she never feels as though she is choosing for :her: — she moves from choosing because it is a Calling to “but he needs me.” (In contrast, Sunshine from The Prince of Midnight is very prickly, but she makes her own choices in relation to Maitland; and Maitland does not feel entitled to her love or care, even after he has rescued her from a cult).
Now, Maddy gets the fairy tale ending of being wed to a Duke, which means many more resources to help people and care for her father, so it’s not like she’s ending up with a horrible deal, here.
Interestingly, Christian does recover some from his stroke (but is not fully cured!) through Maddy’s care. They win, and there is a cost, and all is not perfect, which I actually LIKE.
But this is one of those books where I can’t decide if I enjoyed it overall or not. There are some really great things going on, and yet some of them made me uncomfortable, and I need to sit with that.