Title: The Scholar’s Heart (Chronicles of Tournai #3)
Author: Antonia Aquilante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 30th 2016
Genre(s): M/M High Fantasy
Page Count: 294 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A Tale of Tournai
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.
Etan has bided his time and hidden his love for his friend Tristan. However, when he seems certain that Tristan is over what feelings he’d had for Amory, Tristan’s lifelong friend who was now married to Etan’s cousin, Etan is poised to make his feelings known when Tristan confesses that his father has arranged a marriage for him. To a woman. Even though Etan prefers men (though his father doesn’t know that), and secretly desires Etan.
Etan is crushed. Over the next year (off page) Etan pulls away from their friendship, but when Tristan’s wife dies in childbirth he and Etan are brought together again. Though Tristan did not understand why his friend had been so absent, his attraction remains and he eventually acts upon it.
However, Etan isn’t willing to be one of Tristan’s casual conquests. He explains that casual encounters aren’t something he’s interested in, and Tristan offers Etan an exclusive arrangement (sort of an exclusive friends with benefits). Even though they’re lovers the two still don’t communicate with one another about their true feelings or past hurts until much towards the end of the story when circumstances finally force them to do so.
The story also covers the magic in the world, Etan’s Talent for shapeshifting into a cat, and Tristan’s Talent for fire, follows some intrigue, and there is even a kidnapping to interest the reader.
Though I haven’t read the other novels in the series I was able to easily follow along and figure out the characters and the magic-filled world they live in. Though the world building was interesting, I thought the miscommunication in this went on for far too long and, honestly, it leached what enjoyment I had from the story. There were also some times the story lagged in places while I waited impatiently for something else of interest to happen.
Mostly though I raged and seethed at Tristan’s mother and her meddling. I was flabbergasted at Tristan’s seeming easy forgiveness for her actions. Flabbergasted.
If you like magic infused fantasy stories, with strong characters, medium angst, a bit of intrigue, and don’t mind miscommunication, you should check it out for yourself.
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