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.
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, November 2015
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Caz
In Daniel’s True Desire, the second in Grace Burrowes’ True Gentlemen series, we travel once again to Haddondale, the village near the estate of Nicholas, Earl Bellfonte. Having told his story in the Lonely Lords series, the author has turned her attention to Nick’s sisters, all of them tall, blonde, forthright and fiercely loving of friends and family, just like their older brother. Even though this novel is loosely related to several other books and there are a number of recurring characters, it’s possible to read it as a standalone – although I’d definitely recommend looking at the family trees on the author’s website and then catching up with some of those earlier stories.
Readers of those will already have met the Haddonfield ladies, the earl himself, and David, Viscount Fairly, whose wife Letty is the sister of the eponymous Daniel – the Reverend Daniel Banks, recently appointed by Nick to the living at Haddondale.
Lady Kirsten Haddonfield is prickly, sharp-tongued and, quite frankly, something of a grouch. She is not looking forward to her impending visit to London for her youngest sister’s come-out, which is bound to stir up gossip concerning certain … irregularities in the family, as well as raking up unpleasant memories of her two broken betrothals.
But beneath the outward grumpiness is a young woman whose faith in life and in herself has been badly shaken, and who cares deeply for those around her. She feels wasted tucked away in Kent, and longs for something to DO, especially given that she has resigned herself to spinsterhood.
As a younger man, Daniel Banks led a fulfilling life, nurtured by a loving father, realising his vocation as a clergyman and being assigned to a good living. But his disastrous marriage a decade before, to a young woman who was completely unsuited both to him and to the life of a country vicar’s wife, has gradually worn him down and he is even finding it hard to enjoy his calling, which is the one thing in his life he feels he has left to him. And worst of all, he has left behind him his five year old nephew, Danny, who, until the spiteful Olivia Banks spilled the beans, believed Daniel to be his father, and whom Daniel had cherished since the boy was given into his care as a baby. Now that Letty is settled with Fairly, she is in a position to provide for the boy, and even though it broke his heart, Daniel believed it best for Danny to return to his mother.
When Daniel and Kirsten meet, there is an instant affinity between them, as though each can sense the other’s carefully hidden discontent. Daniel finds Kirsten’s brutal honesty refreshing and is quickly able to see beneath her surface veneer of prickliness to the caring woman beneath; and Kirsten finds herself taken with the handsome vicar whose competence, sense of humour and quiet aura of compassion cause her to reassess her position when it comes to men and marriage.
But even though Daniel is estranged from Olivia, he is still married and cannot divorce her and occupy any sort of position within the Church. Without any other way of making a living, he could not support Kirsten; and with his wife continuing to threaten to expose the truth about Danny’s parentage, he is facing a life without love or true companionship.
There is a lot to enjoy in this book besides the lovely, bittersweet romance that blossoms between two people who have been knocked about a bit by life. Grace Burrowes excels at writing stories about community, friendship and family; her characters function within the world she has created for them, so they feel as though they have lives of their own that continue even when we are not reading about them. Among the books’ highlights are the focus on the bonds that develop between the group of unruly boys who are brought together under Daniel’s tutelage, and the way the author explores the various kinds of love; between lovers, siblings, parents and children. She skilfully addresses the issue of what is the best thing for a boy in Danny’s situation, and once again writes children that speak and act like real children, and not as precocious moppets whose sole function is to be cute and bring the protagonists together at the end of the story.
Something else I always enjoy about Ms Burrowes’ books is the way in which she writes such strong male friendships. I loved the interactions between Nick, Fairly and Daniel, and the way in which the two lords close ranks around Daniel when he needs their help.
Daniel is a wonderful hero, a warm, compassionate man who has no idea of his own attractiveness or his effect on women – and who is having to live with a poor decision made early in his life. Even though he is struggling with the fact that, were he in any other profession, he would be able to divorce his wife and still make a living, I liked that he doesn’t actually have a crisis of faith and that the author’s solution to his marital issues is, therefore, one I wasn’t expecting. The one false note struck in the book (and the reason for the 4.5 stars rather than 5) is to do with one particular plot point which is too much of a magical “fix” for something which isn’t – in real life – magically fix-able.
Overall, however, Daniel’s True Desire is a sweetly romantic, emotionally satisfying read and one I’m more than happy to recommend.