My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Duty and Desire is the second book in Elise de Sallier’s Hearts of Honour series. While I still love the author’s writing style, as it was as sweet and lovely as ever, and found most of the characters amazing, I wasn’t fond of the plotline. After loving book 1, I was totally looking forward to this installment. However, the story frustrated me to no end and I ended up disappointed.
Book 1, Passion and Propriety told us the story of 2 childhood friends, kept apart a long time by the trickery of fate, who had a chance of reuniting when they needed each-other more than ever. William, the heir to the Viscount Blackthorne, returns home from war badly injured, only hoping to die in peace. He always hated his autocratic father and a legacy full of debauchery, thanks to his ancestors; a fact that kept William from entangling with the fairer sex. Completely. His estate was falling apart because he hadn’t returned ever since he left home and the estate manager certainly didn’t anything to remedy it. Moreover he was filching money off the estate, leaving it in shambles. But then the news reached that his father has passed on. William had no interest of returning any way, until he was injured.
Hannah, the Vicar’s eldest daughter, had been William’s only friend when he was but a boy of 12. Hannah was a bit older than him and probably took a pity on the lonely boy who didn’t have any playmates, yet couldn’t mingle with the others because of his rank as the Viscount’s son. Hannah hadn’t seen him ever since he left home… until one day, when she was sure that she’d be a spinster for the rest of her life. William was present at the back of the church, though she had no idea it was him. Later they find that he’s injured, badly in need of help. Hannah promptly summons her best friend, the healer and the midwife of the village, Grace. Grace is an expert on herbal remedies and with Hannah’s help, they pull William through this. In the process, Hannah and William become closer again, and find themselves falling in love.
In the course of the story, William not only saves his estate but he marries Hannah too. And Good God, the both of them were mad for each-other. It was lovely to read about H and h where they share their first times together, on their wedding night. That doesn’t happen often in romance novels. I loved every bit of this story. It was sweet, passionate and simply heart-melting.
Jonathan Loring comes to the village at the invitation of William. He was one of William’s high rank officers who needed financial help so badly that he was willing to work, even though he’s the son of an Earl. He’s a widower and has a young boy who is very sickly. Even though Hannah and William, having much trust in Grace’s ability, requests Jonathan to seek help for his son, he vehemently denies. He had no trust or patience for ‘witchy herbs and potions’. Even though the most prominent of doctors couldn’t help his son, Jonathan kept being obtuse, making Grace angry at his comments and insinuations. The whole thing creates a status quo, as both Grace and Jonathan carry on supporting their beliefs. To say that they didn’t have a friendly relationship would be an understatement. And though, in the end, Grace saves Hannah and her twin babies lives from a horrible, totally nightmarish birth, Jonathan is still not inclined to put faith in her abilities... which is how book 1 ends.
I couldn’t wait to read Duty and Desire because Grace was awesome as a secondary character. I admired her and wanted to see how her ‘differences’ with Jonathan is finally resolved.
From before, we knew of Grace’s background. An illegitimate child of a Lord and a maid, she had a rough childhood, though after her mother passed, her father took her to his home to live with his wife and 2 children. She wasn’t welcome with open arms but Grace lived well enough, was even given an education and social trainings. However, the moment her father passed away when she was barely 18, she was thrown out of the house, thanks to her step-mother. Of course, the woman was probably waiting for the moment when she can do it (though it didn’t keep her from summoning Grace later to treat her for one of her many maladies)! Grace was then taken in by an elderly aunt, the village healer, who also trained her in the arts of healing and all sorts of herbal remedies.
The stigma of her birth, alongside the sudden poverty, threw Grace off kilter for a while. She didn’t know what to do, until she began training under her aunt and then falling in love with her profession. It wasn’t easy to make a place for herself among the folks who didn’t respect her to begin with. But as her aunt grew older, Grace began taking over her clients. Since she was very good at her job, gradually she also started earning respect and acceptance. Over the years, Grace has made a place for herself in the community where they think her important and seek her out. She worked hard, sometimes staying up or going out late into the night when an urgent call came. She might’ve been exhausted from a full day’s work, yet she didn’t hesitate. Grace knew this was her calling and she did her job well.
But the same stigma and the tough years she’d endured can’t be erased from Grace’s mind so easily. She clings to this life as if this is her lifeline. Maybe, in a sense, it was her lifeline. And so, she had made a vow to not ever getting married or, after her mother’s experience, to get entangled with a man. Really, what man would let his wife have a job, let alone to wonder around the village late at night, no matter the reason? Besides, her aunt never got married, which convinced Grace that that’s also how her should be... until Jonathan Loring came into her life and started turning things upside down.
Due to William’s generosity, Grace had an emporium of sort up and running. It was one of her lifelong goals, to have her own shop where she can make, keep and showcase her herbs and remedies, talk to and treat people without having to endure the invasion of the privacy of her house. Seriously, one needs that! Apart from the most serious cases, she wanted people to come to her in an official hour. Besides, she was also training a few odd women of the village in her trade, both herbal remedies and midwifery. After all that she’d been thru to come this far, Jonathan’s snide comments struck a chord in Grace. With is why her relationship with him was shaky as best since the beginning. Whenever they’d meet there’d be this tension and some kinda word exchange between them, more often than not to rile each-other up. Everybody knew that they can’t stand the shadow of each-other. But no one knew that both Grace and Jonathan harbored a secret attraction that they would never have acknowledged had fate not played it’s part of bringing them together on a single, most worthy goal; to save little Peter’s life.
When I met Jonathan in book 1, I thought he was gentleman... mostly. He also seemed very experienced in life, in comparison to William anyway; especially when it came to women. However I was so wrong that I almost couldn’t recognize him in his book. Jonathan definitely isn’t a virgin like William used to be but his experience with women was very few and far between. Then he got married so young to an even younger girl that his love life had no hope of surviving, because Jonathan’s wife had no interest in sex, more so after Peter was born. And because he’s such a gentleman, Jonathan never thought about cheating on his wife, even when he was far away serving in the Army. He didn’t have a good relationship with her, but he wanted to work things out for Peter’s sake. Since becoming a father, Jonathan knew his life has changed but he had no idea just how much until his wife died in accident. Jonathan returned for the funeral, only to find a 2yrs. old Peter to be so ill that no one knew if he’d survive the coming weeks. The shock of it was too much for Jonathan; the guilt of not taking care of his son, though I’d say his fickle wife was to blame since she had no interest in the child either. He promptly resigned his commission to take care of Peter, to do anything possible to see his son hale and hearty once again.
3 more yrs. have passed ever since and Peter has not had gotten well. If it was possible, the child has gotten even worse. Jonathan has almost depleted his meager savings from the Army to bring in the best doctors around but to no avail. I don’t think I have to explain that reviving his love life was far from Jonathan’s mind when he was regularly living in fear that his only son would perish any day... and that, as a father, he was unable to help him in any way. :(
I already mentioned that Jonathan is the son of an Earl. Then why was he living like this? Turns out, the current heir, his elder brother, is a wastrel who gambled away most of the money. Even Jonathan’s own inheritance didn’t survive. It all happened when he was in the army, also why he was forced to work for a living. Now, his mother and only sister Penelope, are in danger of living out in the streets. For now, Jonathan is the one who’s helping them financially. The Countess has extravagant taste and can’t forget her former life... Jonathan doesn’t know just how long he can make both ends meet.
Jonathan’s disdain of herbal remedy wasn’t his own but something his obnoxious father has drummed into him very young. Then we learn of his eldest brother, the original heir. He was also very ill, much like Peter (so it seemed that this mysterious illness ran in his family) and passed away in his teens. His father had no trust in herbalists and his brother suffered before his death. Jonathan would’ve cling on to his beliefs, but today, Jonathan is desperate.. At this point, when the last doctor said there’s nothing more can be done for Peter, he’d do anything to save him. Even if it means eating the humble pie and begging Grace Daniels to treat his son. Only he didn’t know if she’d just ignore his plea and walk away.
But of course she wouldn’t! To be fair, Grace had wanted to help Peter since the very beginning. Though Jonathan’s behavior had hurt her, she promptly assures him that she’d be treating Peter. That Jonathan has nothing to worry about on that regard. And this development soon turns a new leaf in their relationship. Grace’s ministrations and advice regarding Peter’s health begins to show positive result, making Jonathan extremely happy. He could now see how he’d judged Grace wrong and would love to amend the rift that their previous animosity had caused. Grace finds herself wanting to forgive Jonathan, knowing that he’s not only a wonderful, dedicated father but also a wonderful man. Peter becomes the bridge to their newly formed companionship as the boy becomes attached to Grace, clearly quite fond of her. It was pretty plain to see that he wanted a motherly touch in his life, which in some way, Grace’s attention and affection brought him. Grace knew it’s not wise to form that deep an attachment with a patient or with his family for that matter, but she finds herself unable to stay away.
And then, there was that attraction that the both of them fought hard now that the barrier of their previous misunderstanding had lifted completely. Jonathan definitely wanted Grace, which he’d willingly admit if she returned his regard... one day, Grace surprises him by kissing him, stating her wish to learn what it is to become a woman in all sense. At first, Jonathan was shocked. But he was equally elated that she’d turn to him for such affection. After that though, the kisses turns into something more and Grace now wanted this to go beyond kissing and fondling. She wanted to experience it all. Without the bond of matrimony.
For Jonathan, he would’ve loved to give Grace the honor of becoming his wife because he’s more than willing to worship her body. Yet, she, in so many words, tells him that there’d no marriage. It’s just not possible due to her work. I failed to see Grace’s point completely, thinking she’d come around because Jonathan was simply crazy about her. He adored her, wanted her so much that he agreed to whatever terms she put forward. I mean, as a man shouldn’t he be happy that he gets to shag her without taking any responsibility at all? But no! You’ll find that Elise’s heroes aren’t like that at all. They’re honorable, loving and very loyal. But Jonathan had no other options. With his own poor financial condition, especially now that his mother and sister have come to live with him, he doesn’t hope to marry anytime soon. He’d do anything to be with Grace, even if it means to agree to a secret liaison.
I knew this couldn’t go on forever as they were already in love. But Grace keeps insisting their affair has to remain a secret. Oh, they did this handfasting kind of marriage secertly but that would never stand in the eyes of the society, would it? Grace knew very well that if Jonathan is to marry someone else, she can’t do anything about it.
William misunderstood Jonathan’s pre-occupied state and thought it might be due to Hannah’s younger sister, Naomi and start a not-so-subtle matchmaking, it takes a bad turn. I’d never know why he thought it was Naomi though. Jonathan, who is horrid at lying just made a muck of everything because he was having a hard time keeping his relationship a secret. He wanted to let it out in the world, could barely contain it... and it started from there. Naomi, a practical girl, is told that Jonathan is secretly enamored of her and wants to court her. When this becomes public knowledge, it completely throws Grace off balance. She mentally dumps it all on Jonathan, as in it was his plan to marry Naomi. She even becomes hurt and angry that Jonathan would wanna marry someone else! She’s insanely jealous of Naomi too, secretly berating the girl when it wasn’t her fault in the first place! HUH? I mean c’mon, make up your mind Grace! YOU were the one insisted on an affair. YOU were the one didn’t wanna marry him when he was totally willing to. What did you think, that he’d live this way, content with having clandestine meetings here and there for the rest of his life? Is that even logical for you to expect, with his family wanting to see him settled with a good girl, so that Peter can also have a mother in his life?
When this insanity kept going on for too long, it occurred to me that Grace had no idea what she wanted from this relationship. Even when her aunt asks her to rethink her decision and not slip Jonathan out of her life, Grace refuses to consider it, strictly sticking to the fact that her position in the community was hard earned and she wouldn’t lose it. Not even for Jonathan was the untold statement. Honestly, it didn’t sit well with me. You simply can’t have your cake and eat it too. And you can’t claim to love a man when you can’t sacrifice anything for both of your happiness!
But if I thought that was bad, I was simply wrong as I found out when the story continued. There was some trouble going on in the coal mines that surrounded Hartley. As the estate manager, Jonathan was keeping an eye on them. In one of those investigations, he’s lured into a mine, which collapses, leaving him trapped. You can only imagine the panic! But Jonathan is mostly in tears because now that Peter is on the mend, they won’t have any time together, and he’d never be able to hold Grace in his arms again. It broke my heart to see just how much Jonathan loved Grace, which she should’ve returned tenfold and let nothing stand between them. *sigh*
Now, don’t worry because Jonathan is rescued thanks to William’s help. Why I said that things turned ugly was due to this— Jonathan is badly injured, yet everybody heard ‘grace’ on his lips from the moment he was rescued. Disoriented from his injury, he couldn’t keep his longing for his beloved a secret. Though no one understood why he’d say grace, she knew. And instantly, Grace becomes alert, trying to staunch any suspicion coming her way. She accompanied the search party and was present on the site, which is where she treats him. She patches him up, totally ignoring his disoriented blabbering, where the most of it was asking her to stay with him. And no, she doesn’t escort him to his home, fearing that someone’ll notice something. She refuses to be seen with or around him after that. She refuses to even see him while he recuperates from his injuries, hoping that she’d come visit him. All because she doesn’t find herself in a situation with Jonathan that leads, oh the horror!, to matrimony. She isn’t going down that path for anything, so she refuses to even acknowledge her relationship with Jonathan. Note that at that time, she was still annoyed and angry at Naomi because of her interest in Jonathan, still blaming Jonathan for everything.
The whole scenario left such a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t help shaking my head in dismay. The man you claim you love was just rescued from a place that could’ve become his stony tomb had anything gone wrong at the rescue. And all you can think of what’ll people think? You completely ignore him, yet you can’t take it that someone else is interested in him. Did you even ask if he wanted to marry Naomi? Was that even ‘love’? I simply don’t know, but I can tell you it totally ruined my enjoyment.
And so, I couldn’t convince myself that Grace had any notion of what love was. She’d pine for what Hannah and William had, yet she couldn’t give Jonathan the little support and attention when he needed it the most to save her infernal reputation. It was he who had to visit her because Jonathan was feeling guilty. He was freakin’ scared that he’d let something slip about their affair and maybe that’s why Grace is staying away from him! He still wasn’t completely well, yet he’d do anything to convince Grace, even if publicly, that he doesn’t care, all the while Grace tried her best to explain to everyone present that ‘Mr. Loring had a head injury, so he was talking gibberish’. REALLY? By then, thanks to William’s generosity, Jonathan’s financial problems were resolved, so he wanted to make it formal.
It was when Grace heard that bit of information, also when she was given the assurance that Jonathan won’t interfere in her work (as if he ever would!), is when Grace gives her consent to the marriage.
Personally speaking, the solution of their dilemma seemed so easy that it made everything Grace did to keep her relationship with Jonathan a secret pointless in my eyes. I tried my best to consider her situation, her past and empathize. Unfortunately, it didn’t help.
Saying all these, it doesn’t mean I’m giving up on this series. Not at all! I’ve come to care for the lives of these characters, so I’m gonna keep my eyes open to see who is getting the next book. 3.5 stars.
I received this ARC, courtesy of TWCS via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.