Daniel Banks is a man of the cloth whose vocation is the last comfort he has left–and even his churchman’s collar is beginning to feel like a noose. In an attempt to start his life over, Daniel accepts the post of vicar in Haddondale, a position supported by the Earl of Haddonfield. There Daniel meets Lady Kirsten Haddonfield, to whom life has also dealt multiple unkind blows.
Daniel’s interest is piqued by Kirsten’s unsentimental attitude toward her misfortunes, and by the kind-heartedness the lady keeps well hidden. Kirsten is much taken with Mr. Banks and his genuine compassion for others, despite his own troubles. When Providence intervenes, and Daniel and Kirsten can become engaged, their happiness seems complete…. though every garden has at least one nasty, sly, determined serpent.
Source: ARC from Sourcebooks Casablanca via NetGalley
This is a sweet, fairly slow-going romance between a lovely, selfless vicar and the straight-talking but secretly wounded earl’s sister. Daniel is a truly lovely man, while Lady Kristen has a big heart that she tries very hard to conceal. The romance is steady and slow thanks to Daniel being, well, married. Even if his wife is estranged and terrible and a blackmailer and someone he never wants to see again. If he was part of any other profession he would gladly divorce her, but if he wants to stay with the church then he’s stuck with his wife.
It would have been easy for this book to have sunk beneath the weight of languishing glances, melodramatic bemoaning and uncharacteristic adultery. However, thankfully, it doesn’t. Mostly because Daniel is a fiercely honourable man who also has no idea of his looks or effect on women. It also helps that Kirsten has no idea he’s married for most of the book (though I couldn’t quite work out why she didn’t know – surely her brother should have mentioned it, since he was worried about it and all).
Actually Kirsten confused me a lot at first. Her behaviour is exhausting, constantly flicking from one thing to another, with a strong undercurrent of anger colouring everything she does. One moment she’ll be fine, then Daniel will say something completely reasonable and suddenly she wants to hit him. I soon gave up trying to figure out just why she was acting that way, else I might have gone mad. Reasons for her behaviour do finally emerge, but it takes a while. I actually really appreciated that side of things, until there was a magical fix that reminded me of one of the things I disliked most about the last book (George’s miraculous marriage in Tremaine’s True Love). I wish these seemingly brave narrative decisions weren’t constantly being undermined by potentially hurtful “miracles” and I really hope this won’t become a theme of this series either.
When it comes to Daniel, though, I liked him a lot. He’s a good man who has faced plenty of heartache in his life. His marriage was a disaster and the child he raised as his own has been taken from him – for a good reason, even if it feels wrong. He’s constantly trying to do the right thing by those he loves, even when it makes him miserable. I also really appreciated that despite this bad stuff he never has a crisis of faith. I’m not religious myself, but it would have been an easy cop out if he’d used questioning his vocation as a way to duck out of things.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this book are the rotten boys and how both Daniel and Kirsten deal with them. They also add a lovely layer of humour to a story that might otherwise have wallowed a little in the realms of hopelessness.
So despite a few moments of confusion and the occasional emotional issues dragged out in avoidance of the obvious, I enjoyed this book. There’s no grand romance here, no wild excitement or mad schemes, just a strong friendship forming a bond between an almost too selfless hero and an occasionally difficult heroine kept apart by a scheming minx, and with a pack of rotten boys rampaging about to keep things interesting. It’s easy and enjoyable for the most part, and if not for that magic fix and the unnecessarily dragged out ending I would have really loved it. As it is, this is good, but like the first in this series it probably isn’t Burrowes’ best work.
Daniel’s True Desire is out November 3rd!
Visit Grace Burrowes for more details.