Reader's Corner: Romance and Angst: Rediscovering Laura Kinsale

book13.gifI will dispense with the “graphic novel” feature for now and just spend time discussing one of my favorite genres: romance. So, without further ado – I feel like I have to re-introduce this author to some of you “new” romance readers out there.

Yeah, some of the new authors out there are doing a great job [cough] with writing historical romance fiction but Laura Kinsale is by far the best historical romance writer bar none when it comes to telling stories about rakes, highwaymen and other characters (to me). I understand that the crown must be passed on but still, her stories are still worth a look today.

Sourcebooks have reprinted three of Laura Kinsale’s books sans Fabio on the cover: Midsummer Moon, Prince of Midnight and Seize the Fire (listed as October but they are available now). All three books are getting a “fresh look” and are being re-introduced to romance readers. I’ll briefly go over my favorite Kinsale titles and I have discussion questions for readers at the end.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura KinsaleIf you’re a romance reader who enjoys angst and flawed heroes then you should give Laura Kinsale a try. My first introduction to her work happens to be the book that I favorite the most: Flowers From the Storm. It’s about a powerful Duke, who is a genius at math who inadvertently suffers a debilitating stroke and is sent to an insane asylum. To make matters worse, his family is more than willing to snatch away his ducal rights and have him committed forever.

Lucky for him, he finds an ally in Maddie Timms, who works at the asylum with her uncle. Maddie’s spirituality is a big part of who she is and she sees helping our hero, Christian, as her “calling.” Also, she realizes that Christian is still cognizant and reluctantly helps him escape the asylum. Ultimately Maddie becomes the life line between him and his greedy family members. The romance is electrically charged and the ending rocked as only Kinsale knows how. You all need to thank the publishing gods that this book is still around today. It is one of the best romances I’ve ever read. This book is currently available as an ebook and paperback.

The Prince of Midnight by Laura KinsaleThe Prince of Midnight is another favorite Kinsale read. It’s about a ex-Highwayman, S.T. Maitland, who is forced to be reclusive because he has a bounty on his head. He also has a serious condition- a hearing imbalance where any sudden moves makes him nauseated and dizzy. The heroine, Leigh Strachan, is not very likable in here. I was often very frustrated with her myself because of her treatment of the hero. She is often cold, cruel and calculating but determined. The two go off on an adventure together in search of justice and revenge.

It is Leigh who is looking for revenge for her family and has sought out S.T.’s assistance based upon his reputation as a feared “highwayman” but when faced with the man she sees before her eyes, she finds him sorely lacking. Needless to say that winning Leigh’s love at the end was hard won by our hero. Not many readers like this story very much but I loved reading it, you just have to give it a chance. This book is also available as an ebook.

The Shadow and the Star by Laura KinsaleThe Shadow and the Star Looking for a virgin hero? – then look no further than this title. Often The Shadow and the Star is listed as a favorite by romance readers but for me it ranks a close second next to – you guessed it – Flowers From the Storm. Samuel’s story actually started in another book, The Hidden Heart. In it, Samuel was a young, sexually abused kid who was eventually adopted by a well to do family. Kinsale herself has often said that this is by far her favorite book. It took me a long time to fully appreciate this story as it was one that I didn’t read until a few years ago. Miss Leda Etoile, Samuel’s love interest, fits very well with him and I enjoyed their many scenes together. Their relationship unfolds nicely and it is an emotional journey one doesn’t soon forget. Available as an ebook as well.

Midsummer Moon by Laura KinsaleAs much as I love Laura Kinsale, there a few of her books that remain unread: Midsummer Moon, The Dream Hunter (I know Janine loves this book), Seize the Fire, Uncertain Magic, Shadow Heart and For My Lady’s Heart. Kinsale’s stories are almost always populated with characters who are flawed or who carry around plenty of baggage. The biggest reason why I am drawn to her work is because I love reading about damaged people. Perfect people bore me. Give me angst and conflict any day of the week.

Kinsale’s stories are memorable (at least to me). I dare anyone to try her work and come back and describe it as “trash.” Having said that, if one were to ask me to pick out a romance novelist who best represents this genre, I’d pick Laura Kinsale in a heartbeat. YMMV. Among many others of her writing caliber, I could probably list several more. Another appealing factor for me is that many of Kinsale’s stories are often very sensual and the chemistry between her characters is smoking hot. Kinsale hit her stride mostly in the 90’s but her work is still vibrant and emotionally satisfying reads for the that savy romance reader in today’s market. If you haven’t read a Laura Kinsale novel, you should. Admittedly, her stories tend to unfold slowly but if you stick with it, you are rewarded with a very satisfying and memorable read.

Laura Kinsale’s Backlist

Uncertain Magic (1987)
Midsummer Moon (1987)
Seize the Fire (1989)
Prince of Midnight (1990)
Flowers From the Storm (1992)
The Dream Hunter (1994)
My Sweet Folly (1997)

Apart of a series, quartet or trilogy

The Hidden Heart (1986) and The Shadow and the Star (1991)
For My Lady’s Heart (1993) and Shadowheart (2004)

The Shadow and the Star, Flowers from the Storm, Seize the Fire, The Prince of Midnight, Midsummer Moon are available in ebook at Fictionwise are here.

Reader’s Discussion

Ok, I’m through talking. So Kinsale is the queen of angst for me. What authors do you enjoy that write with plenty of angst today? Do you enjoy emotionally or physically flawed characters? What are some of your favorite angst written stories? Who are some of your favorite tortured heroes? Heroines?


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Avid Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Reader's Corner: Romance and Angst: Rediscovering Laura Kinsale

  1. Sarai says:

    I have to say as far as historical writers there are not a lot out there that can pull of the flawed characters I loved when I was growing up. I do enjoy Lisa Kleypas characters there is always something wrong with the hero or heroine. Christina Dodd has the over the top characters that I love. Usually they are so over the top but by mid book they realize how horrible they are and change which is what I like.
    I will admit that i have never read anything by Laura Kinsale so I guess that means I must pick her up soon!
    As far as heroes I loved Derek Crevan’s from Lisa Kleypas book Dreaming of You. I also really enjoyed the stuttering duke in Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I.

  2. Janine says:

    What a great article! I’m putting the final touches on an “If You Like Laura Kinsale” article for Dear Author which I hope will run a week from today. This will be like giving your readers a sneak preview but several of the authors I chose I chose for reasons having to do with angst. Some of them are older authors and now out of print though.

    Since you ask mainly for authors I enjoy today, I’ll just mention the newer of my recs here: Shana Abe’s drakon series (flawed characters, some angst), Joanna Bourne — The Spymaster’s Lady didn’t work so well for me but I think it would appeal to many of Kinale’s readers (some angst, similar settings and a prose style that might appeal to Kinsale fans), and Elizabeth Chadwick’s medievals (She’s still writing them, right? There’s some angst, and also similarities in the writing style and the level of historical research), Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows (very angsty, and the hero really reaminded me of Kinsale’s heroes in his honor and determination to overcome setbacks), Megan Hart’s Dirty and Broken (huge angst, plus flawed characters), Sharon Shinn (not as angsty, but complex characters and a similar scope), Sherry Thomas (pretty high angst and flawed characters), Sandra Schwab’s The Lily Brand (very angsty, psychologically complex, and similar to Kinsale in writing style and in having a couple of endearing side characters who reminded me of the hero’s friends in Flowers from the Storm).

    I think most of these are still in print.

  3. Janine says:

    Oops, my HTML went awry. I meant to italicize just the titles.

  4. Jorrie Spencer says:

    Heh, I just read the rerelease Seize the Fire, the only Kinsale I have not yet read. Which makes me a little sad.

    Seize the Fire is not my favorite Kinsale, but I loved the hero SO much that it’s up there. Kinsale’s books can somehow sink their claws right in me (well, if that makes any sense).

    My fave Kinsales are The Shadow and the Star and Flowers from the Storm, both of which I’ve reread, and I’m not much of a rereader. I have to reread some of the others though.

    Another thing I love about Kinsale are her settings, which are wide-ranging.

    Janine, I look forward to your thoughts, especially because I have a hard time thinking of author writers that are like her.

  5. Avid Reader says:

    Patricia Gaffney would come close – I’ve often heard that Elizabeth Chadwick’s work is somewhat similar in tone as well. I’d be hard pressed to name a particular author who is like her. Between Kinsale and Judy Cuevas/Ivory – they’ve given me some meaty and very angsty historical keepers.

    Janine I fixed (hopefully) your open html tags and I am so looking forward to reading your article. Thanks for the sneak peek!
    Sarai – you’re in for a treat if you do decide to read her.
    Jorrie – you and I have similar favorites 🙂

  6. Brie says:

    I read my first Kinsale book last year, Flowers From the Storm, and was absolutely blown away. It is one of my favorites to date. I’ve read Uncertain Magic since then and I loved the beginning of the book, but it got wacky towards the end. I have Seize the Fire and Shadow Starr in the TBR. One day I will get to them.

    As far as angst goes, I think that Jo Goodman does it well–without it becoming contrived, and her characters are flawed as well, which I love.

  7. Brie says:

    That should be The Shadow and the Star, not Shadow Starr. :p

  8. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Brie – I keep meaning to try Jo Goodman. *searching for ebooks*

  9. Taja says:

    I love Laura Kinsale’s novels and I’m so glad that Sourcebooks reprinted three of them. I don’t know what’s with the October date. I got them in June and I was very surprised about that because they were still listed for October 2008. Huh? Anyway, now I hope that they’ll reprint some of the others too.

    I prefer to read about flawed characters, much more interesting and the happy end is more satisfying (if the characters are believable). As for other authors, Judith Ivory and Patricia Gaffney are already mentioned and then …? I always wanted to try one of Elizabeth Chadwick’s novel, maybe it’s time I get to it.

    And I’ll too look forward to reading Janine’s post.

  10. Janine says:

    Thanks so much for fixing my HTML tags, Keishon! I also have Gaffney and Ivory listed in my “If You Like Laura Kinsale” article so it seems to be a case of “great minds think alike.” Or perhaps it’s just a case of Kinsale fans often being drawn to these authors.

    Brie — For what it’s worth, Uncertain Magic is probably my least favorite of her books — it’s an early one and I think her writing improved over time. I usually recommend that readers start with Flowers from the Storm, but since you’ve already read that, I’d say read The Shadow and the Star or For My Lady’s Heart next. They are both great books, and huge favorites of mine. I love them even more than FFTS, but I may be unusual in that. The other one I adore is The Dream Hunter, but not everyone agrees with me on that one.

    Keishon, Jorrie and Taja — I’ll look forward to seeing you there at DA, hopefully next Monday.

  11. Brie says:

    Keishon, do try Goodman. Since you enjoy Kinsale, I think you will like her as well.

    Janine, thanks for the recs. I have The Shadow and the Star on hand, and this post has made be want to read a good Kinsale, so I will be reading it soon.

    I’m also looking forward to the “If You Like Laura Kinsale” article.

  12. Janine says:

    I hope you enjoy The Shadow and the Star, Brie. But even if you don’t, you may enjoy another Kinsale — her books are quite different from each other in settings and heroine types so it’s very possible that even if this one doesn’t appeal to you, another will.

  13. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this post. One of the first books I read when I got into romance was Flowers From the Storm, and it remains one of the top 3 I have read so far 9our of probably hundreds). I have often wondered whether other readers still discover her. I found her by working my way through the AAR’s Top 100, but if I relied solely on the blogosphere (which I tend to do) I don’t know if I woudl have.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t found any of her other books quite as mindblowing, although I have really enjoyed several, and your post has inspired me to try others. Samuel was just too damaged for me — literally too mentally disturbed (as he should be, but it’s not my cup of tea for a hero).

    I’m looking forward to the DA post on Kinsale. I can’t think of another author like like her!

  14. Jessica says:

    Ugh. Sorry for the typos. I have come to rely on the 5 minute edit window on other blogs. Promise to proof read next time!

  15. Avid Reader says:

    Jessica, I went ahead and added an editing feature so that you all can edit your own comments. It was something I was supposed to do a long time ago and I did it, today. Finally!

    I plan to work my way through their [AAR] top 100 list too. You’ll always find some buried treasure reads in there that are still worth a look today. I hope we don’t have to wait long for another Kinsale novel to enjoy.

  16. Dana says:

    I’m glad to hear you liked The Prince of Midnight. I enjoyed the first half of the book but I stopped in the middle. I can’t even remember why. I need to get back to it.

  17. RenéeW says:

    FFTS is one of my favorite books. What an amazing book. I have also read Uncertain Magic but I don’t remember much about it except that it was a bit…. odd. I also found Prince of Midnight frustrating and never finished. Maybe I’ll try and pick it up again someday. I have The Shadow and the Star in my TBR and I’m saving it for when we go on a camping weekend later this month and I have time to relax and enjoy it. Kind of like a rich chocolate dessert. Great article.

    I love a good tortured hero as long as the angst doesn’t get overdone. Kinsale does them so well.

  18. RStewie says:

    I am an avid fan of Laura Kinsale, as well, and have read all of her books (yay for me). My favorite all time was Shadowheart, and not just for the well-played BDSM elements in it (which I know threw a lot of other fans). A close second is The Shadow and the Star because Samuel WAS so damaged, and Leda was so normal.

    I posted it on Dear Author talking about the upcoming “So You Like” article Janine is doing, so I’ll post it here, too: To me, Connie Brockway’s earlier books are similar to Kinsale’s (not as meaty, not as dreadfully angsty, but wonderful examples of “showing” and not “telling”, which is one of Kinsale’s great strengths), and also, Robin McKinely’s writing is very similar. Both her YA books and Sunshine which was beyond engrossing, for all that it’s contemporary, and fantasy, AND barely a romance, AND is so different in tone it’s almost not even funny that I brought it up here.

    But it DOES remind me of Laura Kinsale’s work, and I’m standing by that one.

    Last I heard, she was working on another lighter romance, which I also enjoy from her (but nowhere near as much as I lurve me some angsty man-steak…). I’m going to have to try out Jo Goodman, though.

  19. Pingback: Review: Seize The Fire, Laura Kinsale « Racy Romance Reviews

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