Title: The Scholar’s Heart
Author: Antonia Aquilante
Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance
Series: Chronicles of Tournai
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Release Date: May 30, 2016
Length: Novel (294 pages)
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Youngest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart who juggles his work for the prince with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, something of particular interest to him because he shares the magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries a woman. Though Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, he is a dutiful son, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family.
A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together, and even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside again. When Tristan’s daughter is kidnapped, Etan and Tristan must come together to find her, find the person responsible, and support each other through the ordeal… and maybe beyond.
The Scholar’s Heart was… in a word, wonderful. It is a story of love, pain, redemption, friendship, learning, and so much more. It is also one that teases the reader. It made me want to demand, when is book four coming? The author graciously has informed me that we only *cough* have to wait until November/December for the follow-up, and trust me, you will want it.
This is not just as story of romantic love, but one about family. Tristan has a baby daughter and has lost his wife tragically. While he didn’t love her, he did care for her, so this is a hard thing for him. His mother doesn’t make things easier for him. The blurb doesn’t do justice to how pushy and bullying his mother is about the idea of him remarrying.
Etan has loved Tristan for years now, as we all know. He however, pulled away when Tristan married. I can’t blame him, I would have too. But fate, tragedy, and maybe even their friends intercede and before long, they are faced with the truth. But has too much happened, too much time, too much pain, too much hurt. Can Etan trust Tristan? Can Tristan relegate himself, body and heart, to one man? And can they save Tristan’s daughter?
Thankfully, The Scholar’s Heart is an HEA, so yes, but it wasn’t easy getting there. And the things we learn…. The things we are teased with possibilities about…. The world building is again excellent and the characters well developed. The plot twisty enough to be enjoyable, the sex hot enough to require a fan or two, and the romance sweet and tangible enough that my heart hurt, squeezed, and raced for Tristan and Etan. Definitely a ReRead.
Several people milled around the small entrance hall, all strangers to Etan except Adeline, Amory’s sister. She moved gracefully around other people and dropped into a curtsy in front of Philip and Amory. The others in the room noticed the action and the princes in their midst and made their bows and curtsies as well. When Adeline straightened, Amory embraced her and Philip kissed her cheek.
“It’s good you’re here. I know Tristan will be glad to see friendly faces,” she said, reaching out a hand to Cathal and Etan, and then Flavian.
“How is he?” Amory asked. Etan was secretly happy he did, because it saved Etan from having to ask the question.
“A little overwhelmed, I think. With the arrangements, and between his family, Da
riela’s family, and the baby.” She shrugged. “I’m trying to help as much as I can.”
“You’re a good friend, Adeline,” Amory said, smiling and squeezing his sister’s hand.
“Oh, hush. Come, I’ll take you to him.” They followed Adeline’s slim figure, clad in a gown so dark a gray it was nearly black, as she walked farther into the house. People bowed or curtsied when they passed. Etan trailed at the back of the group, still flanked by Cathal and Flavian.
While conversation had been quiet in the entrance hall, it was hushed in the room where the coffin was, so much so that the quiet weeping of the older woman who was likely Dariela’s mother was clearly audible. She was in a chair in the corner, a small cluster of women around her, trying to comfort her.
The poor woman had lost her daughter far too young. But still Etan’s eyes sought out Tristan. He stood near the coffin. Etan was used to him shining with his bright blue eyes and his gleaming gold hair. Today Tristan seemed dulled, dragged down by fatigue and grief. Etan ached to make it better, to take some of the burden from his shoulders, to hold Tristan and comfort him, but he couldn’t. He steeled himself against the urge to do so.
They filed past the coffin on their way to pay their respects to Tristan. The woman lying there had been undeniably pretty in life. Etan didn’t know much else about her. In the months they had been married, Etan had done his best to spend as little time with Tristan, with or without his wife, as he could. Self-preservation on his part, giving himself the time to get over his grief and put away his love for Tristan. He hadn’t managed to get over all the hurt yet. And now she was dead. As much as he wished Tristan hadn’t married at all, as much as he wished Tristan returned the feelings Etan had had for him, he never would have wanted that for this poor woman. Etan’s unrequited feelings, his grief, hadn’t been her fault.
And he felt wrong standing at her coffin with her mourners after doing his best to avoid her for so long.
Tristan’s voice brought Etan out of his thoughts. The musical quality was muted now, but his voice still made Etan’s insides swoop around dizzyingly. As it always had. He ruthlessly ignored the feeling.
“Tristan, I’m very sorry for your loss.”
Tristan nodded. “Thank you for coming.”
The words were stiff, formal, completely different from the words they used to exchange back before Tristan had married. Back when they had been close friends and Etan had reason to hope for more someday.
“Of course.” Yes, of course, Etan would come today to pay his respects after Tristan’s wife died, but Tristan couldn’t have known that, not after he had distanced himself from Tristan and their friendship as much as possible in the almost year of Tristan’s marriage. Guilt stirred inside him, just a little.
As Tristan stared at him, Etan struggled for the polite words he should say in this situation, but he couldn’t seem to find them. He’d been brought up to know what to say in every social situation, but all of that training failed him now. Not that he thought Tristan was waiting for meaningless social niceties. No, Tristan had to expect something more from someone who had been his friend, and Etan should give him that because it wasn’t Tristan’s fault Etan’s heart was broken, not really. But Etan couldn’t find the words.
Thankfully, Amory stepped up, filling the silence with all the words Etan couldn’t conjure up. And that was best. Amory had been Tristan’s closest friend since childhood, was someone Tristan had probably been more than a little in love with. Maybe still was, for all Etan knew.
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Rainbow Romance Writers.