Desert Isle Keeper
To Love and To Cherish
To Love and To Cherish is the first volume of Patricia Gaffney’s justly renowned Wyckerley trilogy. The books are set during the Victorian era in the English village of Wyckerley. Wyckerley’s physical terrain is similar to Cornwall – mining and agricultural country, and one of the charms of the trilogy is how Ms Gaffney has made this village and its inhabitants come alive. To Love and To Cherish begins when Anne Verlaine moves to Wyckerley with her husband, Geoffrey.
Geoffrey grew up in Wyckerley and has just come into his inheritance as Viscount D’Aubrey. Geoffrey is a soldier – a very jaded and dissolute character and he is syphilitic, in the tertiary stages of the disease. Geoffrey and Anne have a terrible marriage. She is not able to divorce him, plus they have few financial resources despite his inheritance of a title. Unfortunately, they are stuck together.
After they move to the manor house, Geoffrey finds himself living near his old boyhood chum, Christy Morell. Christy is now the vicar of the parish. Christy and Anne are immediately attracted to one another. Christy does not act on his attraction to Anne because he is a deeply committed religious man who does not believe in adultery. In fact, Christy is now celibate although he is not a virgin, having lost his virginity before he entered the ministry. Christy is also an excellent vicar: he is truely devoted to the people of his parish, he still lives in the same house where he grew up, and the village people love him.
The reader becomes fully engrossed in the life of the village of Wyckerley as the story unfolds. Christy’s vicarage is a mainstay of the the village, and Anne gets very involved in parish life. At first, Christy is enthusiastic about her activity but, as he starts to fall in love with her, he discovers he’s trapped in a very uncomfortable situation. Geoffrey does not suspect that Christy and Anne have feelings for one another. Geoffrey reverts to adolescence and feels the need to compete with Christy, just as if they were boys again and he even cheats in order to win! It’s hard to really hate Geoffrey, because in so many ways he remains rooted back in adolesence, but he is a damaged character. Anne never treats Geoffrey badly, and has almost super-human patience with him – she knows that his disease causes much of his inappropriate behavior.
Geoffrey re-enters the military because of a pressing wartime need, leaving Anne behind in the village. This leaves Christy and Anne alone in the same village, almost next door to one another. At one point, they have their hopes raised for a shared future, but then their hopes are cruelly dashed. I think anyone who has ever been in love in a small town should be able to empathize with this story. Anne and Christy cannot avoid one another. Further, they love and respect one another and yet have Geoffrey, a thoroughly dissolute, diseased and jaded character, standing in their way. If this were a contemporary, divorce would be the ideal solution, but Geoffrey and Anne did not qualify for a divorce. Christy and Anne have to go through a lot of heartache before the HEA.
What I most liked about To Love and To Cherish was that the characters had real problems I could relate to. Also, Wyckerley was so well rendered that I could actually believe that it exists. I enjoyed seeing Anne and Christy’s romance, not just through their own eyes, but also through the eyes of the people of Wyckerley. Ms. Gaffney has a knack for drawing full-blooded, fully realized characters. You will totally empathize with the misery of Anne’s marriage yet admire the spirit that gets her through each day. You will also ache for Christy, a man of God faced with the most significant temptation ever put in his path, one that causes him to examine his entire life. The only aristocrat in the story and in the village is Geoffrey and I thoroughly enjoyed having a story set in England with regular people as characters instead of only lords and ladies.
There are two more books in the Wyckerley trilogy, To Have and To Hold and Forever and Ever. We meet many of the same people in all the books and Christy and Anne are secondary characters in the other books. The trilogy may be read in any order, but I suggest you start with To Love and To Cherish as it sets the stage and introduces the characters of the charming town of Wyckerley. Reviews of the other two books in this trilogy are to follow.
review by Carol Irvin