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When Charlotte Brentwood contacted me about The Vagabond Vicar, the reason I agreed to read it was that the heroine shared the same name as one of my favorite authors. I hadn't really known what to expect, and was delighted to have read such a wonderful story.
The Vagabond Vicar is a charming romance and follows William Brook, a young vicar who has just been given his first assignment. William had dreamt of working in Africa or India, or some other faraway land -- but his rector has decided to send him to Shropshire instead. William had reservations about being given such a mundane parish assignment when he'd wished for a more challenging location. As he settled into Shropshire, he realized it wasn't as easy as he thought it would be. He was so preoccupied with how he felt about serving Shropshire that he hadn't considered how the people of Shropshire would feel about him. Indeed, there was a lot of resistance, considering the previous vicar had served the parish for more than 50 years.
It's a beautiful "coming of age and a coming of faith" story where William discovers the wisdom in God's purpose for him, but, at the same time, it's a beautiful love story between William and Cecilia. I thought it was interesting how Cecilia, especially, tried to grapple with her attraction to William, who is, a man, yes, but also a man who has a higher calling. William hadn't planned on falling in love either, especially with Cecilia, who, initially struck him as a bit odd ... But, when their paths kept crossing, William slowly started to see the compassionate and caring woman that Cecilia is.
The risk of love meant the risk of pain. His life was a study of careful detachment, a myriad of lives he hoped to touch, without allowing himself to be touched in return. The only people in his life he'd every fully let in were the rector, his first mentor, Thomas, and to some extent, Dean Roberts. Anyone else he'd sought to love was either gone or had rejected him. By and large the Church was safe, and even then he revealed precious little to most of his co-workers. Cecilia made him want to open up, and the way his words tumbled forth impulsively in her presence was frightening.
- Chapter 9
I enjoyed how their love story gradually unfolded, and how each encounter was an opportunity to discover a little bit more about each other. In the end, when they declare their love for each other, there is no doubt that it is genuine and rooted in something greater than just physical appearances. It's refreshing to take the historical romance out of the ballrooms and receiving rooms during The Season, and have the courtship happen as part of one's daily/regular journey.
She gazed out the window at the roses and foxgloves, but what she saw was the blooming of something infinitely precious in her own being. He was so kind, so generous, and yet so mysterious. A man of the world, and yet also a man of the cloth.
- Chapter 12
The Vagabond Vicar encapsulates village life very well -- portraying both the pleasant and not-so pleasant aspects of Shropshire.
After breakfast two mornings later, William found Emma polishing the mail salver industriously in the parlour.
"Good morning, Emma," he greeted her. "I am sure you will be able to see your reflection in that tray by now."
The maid broke into an uncharacteristic smile. "I need to use this, sir. You have mail. Proper letters, like."
The possibility of news from the outside world was pathetically thrilling. "Where is it?"
Emma patted the right pocket of her apron.
"May I have it, then?"
She shook her head and looked wounded. "If you'll only sit down, sir, I'll bring it to you on the salver, properly."
- Chapter 4
A friend who recently started reading romance novels asked me to recommend authors/stories that were similar to Jane Austen. I think I've got one for her, and this is it.
The Vagabond Vicar is Charlotte Brentwood's debut novel. I was so happy to read that there will be two follow-up novels after this. (According to the author's end notes, Book 2: Gloved Heart will feature Amy, and Book 3 is titled Mr. Barrington Meets His Match.)
To find out more about Charlotte Brentwood and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received a copy for review from the author. Thank you, Charlotte Brentwood, for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.