Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: The Vicar's Daughter by Josi Kilpack

There are some novels that you should, by all rights, enjoy. They have all sorts of elements that usually guarantee your gushing enthusiasm. But somehow, in practice, they end up not working for you at all. Unfortunately Josi Kilpack's The Vicar's Daughter was one of these for me. A historical romance with more than a hint of a Cyrano de Bergerac story line, this should have been right up my alley.

Twenty year old Cassie Wilton is the youngest of six sisters. Her father, the vicar of the title, and mother can only afford for one daughter to be out in society at a time but Lenora, the sister just older than Cassie, is so shy and uncomfortable in social situations that she's not likely to get married any time soon. And Cassie, who has her eye on a young local man and feeling as if her own chances of marriage dwindle as time goes by, doesn't want to wait her turn. When Lenora comes home from a ball with a handkerchief she was lent during an allergy attack and tells Cassie about the kindness of Evan, the owner of the handkerchief and a former clerk new to town who has been named as his wealthy great-uncle's heir, Cassie hatches a plan to bring Lenora and Evan together. She writes letters to Evan in Lenora's name, eventually falling for him herself, even as he's falling for the Lenora he believes is the author of the letters. All of a sudden it looks like Cassie's meddling is going to lead to unhappiness and heartbreak for all three people involved.

This should have guaranteed I like the book but I didn't like Cassie much nor did I like her selfishly milquetoast sister. That her parents catered to her sister without regard to Cassie's feelings in any way was incredibly frustrating, even if Cassie was annoying. That Evan was unfamiliar with the social rules of those who were once firmly his superiors is believable but that those he consulted gave him such poor advice (perhaps understandable from his rival for Cassie's affection but inexcusable from his uncle) was crazy-making. Quite frankly, he didn't have much of a presence in the book at all despite being the ostensible hero. More fleshed out than Evan's character, the female characters were not consistent in their actions. Cassie docile and abashed all of a sudden and Lenora inexplicably finding a backbone only when it suited to move the plot away from an untenable situation just didn't ring true. There were dolloping heaps of sanctimony and moralizing to go around and the actual romance felt thin and unsubstantiated. Those who want a story about self-sacrifice and forgiveness might find what they're looking for in this clean romance, I guess I prefer more romance in my romances (and no, I don't mean that as a euphemism for something else).

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