Desert Isle Keeper
The Vicar's Daughter
Delightful, simply delightful! This charming tale is what Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice would have been like if Miss Lizzy and Mr. Darcy had decided to defy convention and touch each other, alllll over. The storyline is a favorite: A stuffed-shirt gentleman fights falling for a nice, but poor, country girl. She may just be the vicar’s daughter, but a man can only resist the elemental force of love for so long. And it’s love that does them in every time.
Charlotte Trowbridge is exceedingly lovely, exceptionally level-headed, intelligent, well-read, companionable, charming, gentle – if the woman has a flaw, on her, it looks good. Having been raised in the country by her widowed father, Charlotte participates in the care and upbringing of her younger brothers and sisters, her older sister having recently married and moved away. It seems Charlotte is to have a season in London, and the whole family is banking on her beauty and grace to land her a whopper of a husband so she, and rest of the vicar’s brood, may live out life comfortably: Seasons and good marriages for each of Charlotte’s younger sisters; education and prospects for the two boys. Charlotte feels the burden of her entire family’s future resting on her slim shoulders, but is ready to do her part, barring any unforeseen obstacles.
Unforeseen Obstacle Maximilian Alistair Wentworth Fortescue, the Fifth Earl of Wycliffe, arrives at the vicarage to pay a duty call one fine day, and promptly ends up with a tart on his pants, and I don’t mean Charlotte. No, it seems the stuffy, highly-organized, schedule-driven, neat-as-a-pin, neurotically orderly, methodical, utterly logical gentleman cannot be in the same room with Charlotte without foodstuff ending up on his impeccable clothing. (But he eventually has his revenge in a wonderfully written scene concerning exasperation and champagne that is both funny and erotic.)
At any rate, when Max discovers “his beauty” is going to be in London concurrently with his own well-established schedule, he decides to take an active role in “helping” her find a suitable match. The problem is, he’s so crazy in love with her himself, that he becomes obsessively protective to the point that no gentleman can get near her and it begins to look like Charlotte’s London Season was all for naught. Men are captivated by Charlotte, and the only gentleman who deems her birth too lowly for marriage is Max, who keeps reminding himself she is just “the vicar’s daughter” and he simply cannot become involved with her. It’s on his schedule to marry at thirty so he won’t even consider wedding for a couple more years. He insists that, when he begins looking, the appropriate lady will appear, and not a minute before!
Not an extremely complicated story, The Vicar’s Daughter is nonetheless a real keeper. It is very witty – watching the usually unflappable Max sputter his denials over his attraction for Charlotte reminded me of one of those screwball comedies of the thirties where everybody can see what a goner he is the whole while he’s yelling and posturing and insisting he has no feelings for the girl. Charlotte’s family is utterly real and lovable, and when Max is drawn into their circle, we feel a sense of satisfaction for him. Max needs a family more than he can possibly imagine … but we know it, and are glad when he figures it out, too. We want him to be loved – Max is a wonderful hero and he deserves happiness.
While Charlotte has many escapades, Max is always there to rescue her. Ah, but when the chips are down, Charlotte proves she knows how to rescue herself just as readily, and her family’s behind her all the way. The end of the last chapter is wonderful, and the Epilogue charming. Thank you Deborah Simmons, for giving us Max and Charlotte, and for doing it up right. This one’s a real delight.