"Simon had always expected love to feel different than this. Whether it was his Catholic upbringing or the poetry he'd read - Simon had thought that true love would be uplifting, fulfilling, that it would give a meaning to his loitering, and add joy to his leisure. But not this kind of love. This love was a flesh-eating monster, sharp-clawed and evil-eyed, ravishing his mind with medieval cruelty."
Dr Simon Mráz is a respected specialist and lecturer at the Charles University in Prague. He is a serious man, responsible. His students call him The Cruel Doctor Frost not because he's unkind, but because of his unwavering, ice-cold composure. As a psychiatrist, he values sanity. And sanity can be found in work, restraint, and self-control.
Not many know of that one time in the past when The Cruel Doctor Frost lost his cool. His ill-advised, secret affair with a student left Simon deeply wounded. Since that day, every minute of Simon's life has been a struggle to remain sane, functioning. He's managed so far - as long as he is needed, as long as his work makes a difference, Simon can scrape together enough strength to get up in the morning and run off the nightmares. But when his friends begin drifting away, his beloved protégé becomes independent, and the man who bereaved Simon of his precious sanity might return... Simon's mind and body stop responding to his impressive willpower.
Dear Roe Horvat - you broke my heart, you stomped on it, and then, at the last possible moment, you healed me.
The book starts out with brief moment in which we meet Matej, a student in Prague, on his way to class to take a finals, stopping to buy a cup of coffee to which he attaches a note.
"Are you wondering the same things I am?"
The coffee is for his professor, Dr. Simon Mraz, a psychiatrist who teaches at the university Matej attends.
Fast forward four years, we now hear from Simon, aka The Cruel Doctor Frost, as he is known among the students at the university, and Matej is but a painful memory. Simon lives with Marta, who is Matej's sister, but who is about to move into her own place. Nobody has heard from Matej in those years, not since he left after a tragic event.
Simon's sadness is overwhelming. It is sheer willpower that keeps him mostly sane and standing upright. When the pain threatens to pull him under, Simon runs through the streets of Prague, exhausting himself to the point where he can sleep. It is evident that Simon is struggling - with the memories of Matej, with what happened, with what he could have done differently, with finding a reason for Matej's leaving.
The author did a fantastic job conveying how very empty Simon's life is - he has a few friends, and Marta, but he's only barely holding on. He's numb. He can't even muster a congratulations when his best friend gets engaged. He's rude and offensive, and pessimistic and just so heart-breakingly sad.
The writing is superb - I felt Simon's pain, his longing, the almost robotic way he goes through the motions of his daily life. It was occasionally difficult to see through my tears, especially as about 75% of this book are spent in Simon's head, seeing and feeling his pain, watching him on his way to self-destruction.
Then Marta starts to look for her brother, without Simon's knowledge.
This is a powerful novel about pain and loss, and getting a second chance, even if you don't think you deserve one. It's about two complex and seriously flawed MCs, whose bone-deep pain just dripped off the pages.
It's not your typical romance. This is not a meet-cute and live happily ever after story. This is a story that will break your heart and then slowly, ever so slowly, mend the jagged edges - and yet, the scars remain.
There's a HFN at the very end, for those of you that need to know, one that I could easily see turning into a HEA, even with Simon's warning to Matej.
"Are you ready to spend your life with a sad man?"
I won't forget this book any time soon.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **
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