REVIEW: A Vicarage Christmas by Kate Hewitt
Welcome to Thornwaite, a quaint village tucked up in England’s beautiful but rainy Lake District… where homecomings happen and surprises are in store for the four Holley sisters…
Anna Holley, the third of four sisters, has always felt a little bit forgotten. A family tragedy when she was a child had her retreating deep into shyness, and social anxiety kept her on the fringes of the cozy chaos of the busy vicarage.
After several years away from home, Anna returns for Christmas… and an important announcement from her father. As much as she once loved the village, coming back is hard and puts Anna’s social capabilities to the test.
Avoiding her sisters’ bossy questions, she heads out to the local pub one night, and meets a handsome stranger nursing a pint. Somehow, unburdened by expectations, Simon seems like the perfect person to spill all her secrets to—including a hopeless, long-held crush on her sister’s boyfriend. Confident she’ll never see him again, Anna returns home… only to discover the next day that Simon is actually her father’s new curate!
Dear Ms. Hewitt,
The start of your new series kicks off during Christmas at a Cumbrian vicarage with plenty of family, traditions and angst. While I appreciate seeing a lovely traditional Christmas celebration, true religious belief and the addition of some serious issues to be delved into, I think the resolution of them was a little rushed and a lot of time is spent setting up the characters for the subsequent books.
Anna has practically spent her whole life in Thornwaite and as the child of the vicar, she’s known by almost everyone. After heading off to uni, she settled in Manchester and rarely visits home. I’m a shy person too so I can understand her preference to slip into the background – something that’s hard to do when everyone knows who you are. They are just being kind in asking about her but social situations are torture for Anna. I think the combination of nostalgia for home and dread of venturing into past painful territory is exactly captured here.
Of course the one time she ventures into the unknown – in this case the slightly rougher-around-the-edges pub in town – she meets someone who is interesting and interested in her and spills her guts to someone she sees as a total stranger who turns out not to be. Instead of drunken dancing on the bar, showing her knickers or waking up with a tattoo she doesn’t remember getting, she tells her deepest secrets to Simon. Now how does she face him without cringing?
Simon has changed his life to help people and genuinely felt that was what he was trying to do when he urged Anna to unburden herself to him. In his defense, and Anna eventually sees this too, he didn’t realize who she was until it was too late. Now how does he begin to fit into his new career and life in this small village and among the family of the vicar with whom Simon is to work? He’s got to find some way to assure Anna he doesn’t think less of her as everyone is broken and hurting in some way – himself included – and he truly longs to explore the connection between them.
Meanwhile the family will be faced with several life altering future events as set ups for the coming stories of the series. Will they be able to cope with the upheavals that are about to change the family members forever?
Small village life along with nosy villagers is front and center here. Anna finds it stifling while Simon looks forward to settling in a place where he hopes he can get to know people, do good and make a difference. He’s a natural listener so I believe how he can get Anna to finally lance her long held pain and talk to her family. The lifting of her burden after her confession seems a little fast for something that has haunted her for so many years. Perhaps this will be explored more in the coming books. Simon’s own past experience that drove him to change his life is handled tastefully and is enough to justify how he ventures into new territory because of it.
There are hints of the conflicts to be featured in the sequels throughout this book but they take over during the last fourth. Still I’m interested in Anna’s sisters, what will happen to them and if Simon is going to be called on to help. B-