I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you! That fact didn’t influence my opinion at all.
When William Brook, the younger son from a well-to-do family, decided to become a vicar he dreamed of foreign missions and saw himself preaching Gospel to impressed heathens in faraway, exotic lands. Instead he was given a living in a small Shropshire village called Amberley – and he had to accept it, otherwise he would offend Jacob Roberts, the influential Dean of the City of London. Still he promised himself to lie low and wait for a better opportunity.
Amberley, with the population numbering two hundred, greeted him with a mixture of interest, wariness and open hostility. Soon enough it became clear William had to make a lot of effort in order to be accepted, let alone liked or respected, by the inhabitants. However he was told a marriage with a local girl would help enormously. And here poor William hit a snag – he didn’t intend to marry, not while still dreaming about becoming a missionary in foreign lands, not even if one of Amberley’s available misses, Cecilia Grant, was occupying more and more place in his thoughts and heart…
What I liked:
It was a charming, sweet story with your obligatory HEA waiting like a faithful dog at the very end. No, in this genre, a traditional regency romance, such a remark is not a spoiler; it is rather a confirmation that the book won’t disappoint you. I liked the fact that the main hero was a very pious, very serious young vicar who didn’t want to marry but fell for an oddball of a miss. I am so tired with all those rakes. His love interest, Cecilia, was a girl artistically inclined, prone to daydreaming and too honest for her own good but not skilled in flirting or husband-hunting. Overall they made a charming couple.
Of course there were some necessary obstacles. Firstly, William still dreamed about a mission in Africa or India so he was very unwilling to look for a bride. Then Cecilia’s mum proved to be a kind of a snob – she wanted her only daughter not only married but married well, with a title, a mansion, a fleet of carriages, a house in London and plenty of pin money to spend. In her opinion William’s modest income hardly qualified at all and there was another bachelor available, the younger son of the local, aristocratic Barrington family who seemed to be the perfect candidate (but not the perfect match).
I was also glad Cecilia was given a lot of subtle sense of humour. The presence of a female sidekick in a form of Amy Miller who was working as a maid for the Barringtons and had secrets and problems of her own didn’t hurt either. Overall I suppose Miss Jane Austen would feel in Amberley completely at home most of the time – the author tried very hard to keep the world build properly anachronistic, in accordance with the era, which I appreciate a lot. It was a nice depiction of a time when a good reputation could be damaged by even an innocent secret, when young women pregnant out of wedlock were ostracized and being of a noble and rich gent carried a lot of weight.
Oh and last but not least: the cover. It’s gorgeous and it reflects the innocent charm of that novel very well – definitely a good choice.
What I didn’t like:
The baddie, Barrington. I wish he was fleshed out better. I don’t want to spoil you; let me just say that, as a rake, he was surprisingly inept. I did hope for some more action from his side, some more nastiness and I was given just half-backed attempts at revenge which backfired anyway. I hate stupid baddies. Still I’ve found out he is given a book of his own so perhaps not all is lost.
Apart from that the plot became a touch too predictable near the end and, as a result, the novel stopped being so absorbing but, as I said, it is hardly a flaw, being one of the main features of the genre.
If you like original, Austen-like stories without any fanfiction play, with just a few chaste kisses between two main leads, this is definitely a Regency novel worth adding to your to-read list. Normally, I’m not a romance fan. I like my stories darker, with a lot of suspense, shadowy characters and death lurking around the corner; some purple prose doesn’t hurt either. Still I shamelessly admit I enjoyed The Vagabond Vicar a lot: it was a breeze to read, it was sweet and pretty straightforward without being simplistic. I guess from time to time everybody needs a little sugary snack – this was my bookish equivalent.