From the desk of Katie Patchell
A young vicar trapped in a country village, dreaming of exotic lands. A woman pressured to marry the next eligible gentleman that comes along, yet yearning for freedom and true love. Whether or not the hero and heroine attain their dreams can be discovered in Charlotte Brentwood’s 2014 debut, The Vagabond Vicar, a traditional Regency novel containing romance, danger, and just a little bit of small-town gossip.
William Brook dreams of experiencing adventure and saving lives as a missionary to lands far away from English shores. When he receives a summons from the Dean of St. Mary’s, William expects his dreams to be realized, but within five minutes all his hopes are dashed: rather than the difficult but meaningful life of a missionary, he has been given the title of vicar and a safe living in pastoral Shropshire, England. On arriving in the small village of Amberley, William views the peaceful fields, chattering busybodies, and pushy mothers of single daughters with dread. When he first meets the lovely Miss Grant, he expects her to be a husband-hunting gossip, but on closer acquaintance, William discovers that she is the most intriguing and perceptive woman he has ever met. But his past experiences of love and friendship have trained him to reject what is bound to only hurt him in the end.
Cecilia Grant has never desired a rich and titled husband or learned to flirt. Much to her mother’s horror, she spends her days wandering in nature, sketching, and collecting grass stains on her gowns. When her mother sends her to greet the new vicar, Mr. Brook, she is stunned to see not the calm, elderly vicar she was expecting, but an energetic, attractive young man. As they are thrown together in company, Cecilia begins to feel more than friendship for the compassionate and compelling new vicar who clings to his reserve like a shield.
Just as Cecilia becomes convinced that William may be in love with her also, a rich and titled rake begins his own pursuit for her hand and she must find out if she is capable of going against her overbearing mother to decide her own future. When scandal breaks out in Amberley and events from his past come to light, William realizes that Shropshire, England may not be the boring or safe place he believed it to be, and that life as a vicar is more exciting than he ever imagined.
One of my favorite things about The Vagabond Vicar was Brentwood’s original story filled with interesting plot twists that kept me turning page after page. The view of Regency life in a small town has been imagined by other Regency authors (including Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Emma), but rarely have I seen one from the point of view of the vicar. By the end of the novel, past events are revealed about the characters that, while I wished their revelation had come earlier, made me admire the characters all the more (particularly the hero). I also agree with Laurel Ann’s assessment of the cover from a previous post—the art is simply gorgeous (which I am thrilled to say matches the hero and heroine’s physical descriptions).
The only quality of The Vagabond Vicar that clouded my complete enjoyment of the read was the occasional overly romantic speeches, thoughts, and interactions of the heroine and hero. Their romance seemed to initially be built solely on a mutual admiration of each other’s attractiveness, rather than wit and common interests. But this should be marked down to my own personal preference when it comes to a hero and heroine’s romantic journey, as I usually prefer more “stoic” and bantering types of Regency couples (such as Bath Tangle, The Grand Sophy, and Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer). As the novel went on I learned to appreciate William’s and Cecilia’s romance for what it is—a sweet story of young love—and the added suspense and action of the second half of the novel was the right impetus to force the characters into their own surprisingly relatable revelations and backstories.
Overall, I enjoyed The Vagabond Vicar’s unique plot and characters, beautiful cover, and a lovely romance. The suspense, action, and development of characters rose as the novel neared its close, bringing the ending to a touching conclusion. This is a Regency novel worth adding to your to-read list.
4 out of 5 Stars
The Vagabond Vicar, by Charlotte Brentwood
Charlotte Brentwood (2014)
eBook (279) pages
Cover image courtesy of Charlotte Brentwood © 2014; text Katie Patchell © 2015, Austenprose.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”