THE VICAR’S DAUGHTER, by Josi S. Kilpack, Shadow Mountain, April 4, 2017, Softcover, $15.99 (young adult, new adult)
If you live in Utah or are a fan of clean fiction, then you’re probably familiar with Josi S. Kilpack. In less than 20 years, Josi has made a name for herself writing 25 books for Shadow Mountain Publishing and Covenant Communications.
Josi’s latest novel, The Vicar’s Daughter, is part of Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance series, which, according to the publisher, “allows readers to enjoy romance at its very best — and at its cleanest — portraying everything they love about a passionate, romantic novel, without busting corsets or bed scenes.”
At the center of The Vicar’s Daughter is Cassie, the Wilton family’s youngest daughter. Cassie dreams of entering society. After all, most girls her age are already “out.” But Cassie is the youngest of six daughters and she has to wait until her older sister Lenora is settled before she can have her turn. The problem is Lenora is shy, and not just a little bit, but gets tongue-tied and throws up kind of shy. Lenora is entering her third season, and Cassie is stuck at home waiting her turn.
Enter Evan Glenside. Evan grew up in London’s East End. He never thought to be more than a clerk, but when circumstances land him next in line for his great-uncle’s estate, everything changes. Evan can’t thumb his nose at a chance at a better future but quickly discovers being named heir doesn’t immediately equal acceptance in his new town and new position.
When Lenora and Evan meet by chance, Cassie sees her chance. Lenora is too shy to pursue a relationship, so Cassie decides to write to Evan for her. Evan is immediately taken with “Lenora.” Cassie can’t help but be encouraged until she realizes she’s falling in love with Evan. And when Evan starts courting Lenora, Cassie realizes she might have let her own chance of a happy match fall through her fingers.
The Vicar’s Daughter is in keeping with Josi’s other Proper Romance novels. It’s clean, easily accessible and entertaining. Two of her three main characters — Cassie and Evan — are well developed and likeable. I would have liked to know more about Lenora, especially given her social anxiety disorder. Instead, we’re given a quick flyby that makes her feel more like a plot ploy than anything else. She ends up being rather one-note, and given the role she plays, that’s disappointing.
When you read a Proper Romance novel, you go into it knowing that there’s going to be a happy ending. Even if that’s not how things work in real life, it’s very much what readers want from this sort of book. Because of that, the ending is fairly predictable. Again, you’re going into this book expecting that, so there’s really no big surprise.
I enjoyed The Vicar’s Daughter more than Josi’s Lady of the Lakes, which felt like two separate novels. The Vicar’s Daughter has a more cohesive feel and reads a lot faster. If you’re new to Josi’s work, I’d suggest starting with The Vicar’s Daughter or Lord Fenton’s Folly, both of which are also Proper Romances.
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