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Up to the age of 20, Daniel Banks had lived a golden life, fulfilling his and his father's lifelong dream for him of becoming a vicar, and then being assigned to a good parish. But, at the age of 20, Daniel Banks makes the decision to marry, despite his father's reservations, and that's when trouble starts for Daniel. His wife, Olivia, is everything a vicar's wife shouldn't be: cold, indifferent, materialistic, etc. -- but Daniel practices what he preaches and patiently bears his wife's venom and vitriol.
Daniel is now 30, and weary. He's weary of his vocation, which has, lately, become more a liability than an asset. He's weary of his wife's blackmail, threatening to expose Daniel's son, Danny's true birthright. But Daniel is giving it one last go -- and doors have opened for him to become the new vicar of Haddondale.
Kirsten Haddonfield is bracing herself: her sister, Della, is about to make her debut in the coming London Season, and Kirsten foresees all sorts of terrible things to happen: Della might hear whispers of the circumstances of her birth -- a fact that has already been acknowledged within the family, but has never been brought it out into society. More importantly, Kirsten is bracing herself to revisit her own past and the failed engagements that came from her stay in London. Kirsten hates London, but she must go for the sake of her sister. This winter is her chance to gather and store whatever strength and confidence she needs for the coming battle.
While it's true that opposites attract, it's also true that like recognizes like -- and it's an instant connection between our hero and heroine. There's just so much to love about the relationship between Kirsten and Daniel, and they know it, too -- unfortunately, Daniel is married. It stands as a great, unmovable obstacle that stands in the way of happiness.
"Are you happy, Mr. Banks?" she retorted. "You say I'm a grouch, meaning I deal in truth rather than appearances and gossip. What do you deal in?"
"Not gossip." Which left ... appearances? "You deal in honesty, my lady, but what of kindness? Has it no place in your scheme? Truth can wound, cripple even, and should be wielded with caution."
Olivia had taken it upon herself to bludgeon Danny with the unvarnished truth of his origins, for example.
"This business of honesty and kindness is not a philosophical debate to you, is it?" Lady Kirsten asked.
"Truth and kindness are not mere concepts to you either," Daniel said as the sleigh inched forward. "I like that about you. You do not mine a topic for clever remarks you can toss out in company. You embrace a matter with your intellect, and wring from it what truths or contradictions it has."
- loc 426
It's a great, unmovable obstacle that stands in the way of everything. Olivia continues to haunt Daniel with his threats to expose Dannny, Daniel's illegitimate nephew -- it looms above Daniel, like the Sword of Damocles, about to drop anytime. Daniel is also bracing himself for questions about why his wife isn't with him.
In between, Grace Burrowes intersperses slices of life in Haddondale -- of a vicarage in need of repair, of young boys needing guidance, education, and distraction, of one young boy needing some clarity and assurance as his whole life is upended by his mother's marriage. Danny's situation is very unique. He is actually Daniel's nephew, but, in order to protect him and his mother's reputation, Daniel and his wife publicly claimed Danny as their son. Danny has grown up calling Daniel "Papa" and the two have a wonderful bond. However, with Danny's mother's marriage (read: David: Lord of Honor), Letty Banks has decided she wanted Danny back in her family -- leaving Daniel with a gaping hole in his heart. This is the other difficult situation in Daniel's life -- how could he fight his own sister for Danny? Whose happiness is of greatest importance? Is it Letty's? Is it Daniel's? Is it Danny's? And whose interests are served best by the current situation?
It really amazes me how Grace Burrowes is able to include so much of what goes on in a person's life. Her stories are never about characters in a vacuum, but characters in their milieu. It's wonderful how she contrasts the burdens with the blessings -- one magnifying the other, and vice-versa. It's all so comprehensive, but not overwhelmingly so. As the story progresses, Burrowes goes through a reflection of the different kinds of love: romantic love, the love between sisters, the love of a father to his son, the love of a husband and a wife, and the selfish love of Olivia Banks.
What keeps you reading (and finishing this book in one sitting) is the need to find out how the author would write her characters out of Daniel's situation: there's the easy way, and there's the hard way -- and there's the way Burrowes does it, that makes you exclaim, "Why didn't I think of that?" -- without giving anything away, I thought it was brilliant how she addressed Daniel and Kirsten's problem.
Burrowes continues to endear the Haddonfield Family to her readers -- they rival the Windhams in complicated family history, and also rival them in affection and kinship. The author has characters crossing over from her Lonely Lords series, which I haven't read. (I have promised myself, however, that I will find time to read the 12 books in the series.)
Daniel's True Desire is Book 2 in Grace Burrowes's True Gentlemen series and will be released tomorrow, November 3, 2015. To find out more about Grace Burrowes and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received this ARC through Netgalley. Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and to Grace Burrowes for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.