My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The Vicar’s Frozen Heart is the short and steamy second installment of Karyn Garrard’s The Hornsby Brothers series. It had a good storyline, and was fast paced. I largely enjoyed it. This is the story of the second brother, Tremain.
The Hornsby Brothers series is obviously based of the 3 brothers— The Duke’s heir and a viscount on his own right, Harrison, Tremain, the second son and the third, Spencer. From what I’ve gathered, Harrison seems to be the most outgoing of the lot, most popular and a bit of a womanizer too. We’re yet to see his story unfold in this series. Spencer, who had the first book, Bold Seduction, is the most reclusive one. He has a brilliant mind and a scholar to boot. He has been a recluse most of his life and due to his slightly autistic edges the society made a joke out of him, calling him various names. But both his elder brothers and his parents have always been very protective of Spencer. How he came to know the Madame of a brothel, Philomena, when he was a virgin and was cloistered away in some faraway castle (of sort), is a story you’ll just have to find out by reading book 1. ;)
I enjoyed Bold Seduction and was waiting to read The Vicar’s Frozen Heart. Neither Tremain nor Harrison were seen in the first installment, but only by mention so I wanted to know more about them. I thought Tremain was more like Harrison than Spencer. However, he surprised me by being quite different than any of his brothers. Tremain seemed to be cool and distant; a man with few words, who always wore a glare. However, learning of his war injury shed some light on this vast change in his persona.
Tremain went to military, then weathered a bloody Anglo-Zulu war in faraway South Africa that changed the course of his life. Much like Spencer, he’s also been cloistered away in a small village that is close to his own estate. Previously Tremain held no title, but after his services and the injury that crippled him, he was given an honorary title by the Great Queen Victoria. Tremain didn’t want or need that, but what can he do when the Queen favors him with something? So he simply accepted the title and the many obligations, such as the village he is now living in, that came with it.
The injury and the PTSD from that war have made a recluse out of Tremain as well. His family respected his wishes to be left alone. Tremain has hidden his identity to serve this village as a vicar, which he became by choice rather than by necessity. Tremain is no fake vicar, he has indeed finished the necessary studies before taking up on this responsibility. He thought it’d be a way of healing his internal wound and make him feel at peace. I could see he needed time and space to heal, though being lonely and celibate wasn’t helping his cause very much. One night, when it’s heavily snowing outside, the pain in his leg wakes Temain up... then he hears something that would lead him to investigate outside, only to find a young woman left beaten and penniless on his property. What could he do but to bring her in even with the horrid pain that plagues him every minute of the day?
But that’s not how Eliza wanted her life to turn out either. She was the governess of the family of a peer, was compensated well for her services. Though an orphan grown up in an orphanage, Eliza was given a good education and through that, she was able to live quite a privileged life in that household. But the loneliness of not being able to fit in anywhere drove her to do something unwise that ultimately costs her her job. The mistress of the house almost threw her out without a single penny or a letter of recommendation. Eliza’s meager savings and everything else were robbed off too while she was traveling through the night, not thanks to the woman who won’t even let her wait until the morning.
Now Eliza owes her life to this grumpy vicar of a village unknown to her. No matter how handsome he is, Eliza must keep her head straight and not do the same mistake all over again. In a few days as she continue to recuperate, it becomes obvious that the attraction is mutual, though Mr. Colson won’t let her near him. This moment he’s on fire, the next he pushes her away as fast as possible! It does create some friction because Tremain could be quite cutting if he was not in a good mood. You can also blame it on his injury, the pain of which continues to plague him day and night. But mostly it was because he knew that a lusty liaison with Eliza would only end in disaster. She didn’t need another one in her life at that point.
After a while, when it became obvious that they won’t be able to deny this attraction, new worries begin to arise. Eliza was often quite worried that her own past would always color Tremain’s view of her. Being a vicar’s wife won’t be so easy and though she’s willing to weather anything, what of Tremain? But for Tremain himself, it was for an entirely different reason. So far, no one in this village, let alone Eliza, knew that the revered Viscount Hawkestone or ‘Hawk’ as they call him, is none other than Tremain himself! When the truth emerged, the kind of mess it was going to cause was anybody’s guess. And because Tremain knew of Eliza’s past, he knew she was going to be upset that she was kept in the dark about it all. Their budding relationship may even be over before it had a chance of blossoming. Can Tremain take that risk for love?
Let me tell you that, though it took some times but the vicar’s frozen heart was already thawing for good! :D
I liked the intimate scenes between Eliza and Tremain quite a lot. Their relationship didn’t seem too rushed, however I would’ve loved if we could read a few more chapters. Tremain was a changed man, but he did everything in his power to divert it towards meaningful causes which I loved. I also really loved the ending. My only issue with the story was the writing, especially the dialogue between the characters, which felt rather stilted. I don’t know if it was because I read the ARC but I couldn’t shake this off till the end. The Vicar’s Frozen Heart is a well enough standalone, because much like book 1 it’s focal point is the relationship between Tremain and Eliza. 3.5 stars, will be eagerly awaiting Harrison’s story.
I received this ARC, courtesy of Lyrical Press (Kensignton) via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.