The Vagabond Vicar by Charlotte Brentwood

vicarAuthor Charlotte Brentwood sent me this book to review, which is a regency romance with a Georgette Heyer/Jane Austen feel. I hesitated, because of my recently-established rule of not reading books that are “sweet” or “heartwarming.” But then I read the first chapter, and I was drawn into the story.

We begin with William Brook, who longs to go on missions to Africa but has instead been assigned the cushy job of vicar in the small English town of Amberley. Think Doc Martin or Doc Hollywood and you’ll understand his reaction. He doesn’t want charming, he wants exotic and exciting. More importantly, he wants to serve people in need, not a bunch of puffed-up, small-towners who spend their days gossiping.

When he first meets Cecelia, he’s sure she’s the first of many eligible young women who will be thrown at him. He quickly finds he’s wrong about Cecelia, who loves to paint and whose matchmaking mother despairs at her lack of social graces.

What I liked about this book: there’s the usual intrigue and dastardly villain, but a lot of this book is simply William and Cecelia getting to know each other. William doesn’t want to get married, he doesn’t even want to stay in Amberley. Cecelia has to overcome the wishes of her mother to marry her off to the wealthiest candidate. They face obstacles but they don’t lie to each other or play games. Both characters are completely likeable and both grow as a result of knowing the other.

I also liked that both characters could see beyond their own romance to the bigger issues facing the town. When Cecelia’s closest friend is in trouble, William has to risk the censure of the entire town to help her. And that means putting their romance on hold. William also has to confront some difficult issues in his past.

I should tell you, though, while Regency romances aren’t really my thing, I’m a sucker for a good small-town story. From Northern Exposure to Doc Hollywood (dated references, both of them, but old favorites), I love stories about people who start out thinking they’re meant for something bigger and “find themselves” in a small town. I suppose I’m telling you too much, but you’ll see it coming. You’ll still enjoy the read.

This is a nice, light read (dare I say “sweet”) but with an interesting story and characters. I’m not going to compare it to Jane Austen, because nothing compares to Austen, but it’s Austen-esque. And I haven’t read much Georgette Heyer so I don’t know how this compares to her books. Either way, I really enjoyed it. If you like regency fiction and are looking for a good romance, I would definitely recommend this one.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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