REVIEW: The Vicar’s Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack
Cassie, the youngest of six daughters in the Wilton family, is bold, bright, and ready to enter society. There’s only one problem: her older sister Lenora, whose extreme shyness prevents her from attending many social events. Lenora is now entering her third season, and since their father has decreed that only one Wilton girl can be out at a time, Cassie has no choice except to wait her turn.
Evan Glenside, a soft-spoken, East London clerk, has just been named his great-uncle’s heir and, though he is eager to learn all that will be required of him, he struggles to feel accepted in a new town and in his new position.
A chance meeting between Evan and Lenora promises to change everything, but when Lenora proves too shy to pursue the relationship, Cassie begins to write Mr. Glenside letters in the name of her sister. Her good intentions lead to disaster when Cassie realizes she is falling in love with Evan. But then Evan begins to court Lenora, thinking she is the author of the letters.
As secrets are revealed, the hearts of Cassie, Evan, and Lenora are tested. Will the final letter sent by the vicar’s daughter be able to reunite the sisters as well as unite Evan with his true love?
Dear Ms. Kilpak,
When I saw the cover for this book and then read the blurb, I had in mind that I’d get a sweet, funny, slightly madcap late Regency version of Cyrano de Bergerac. A few letters, a little misunderstanding, some issues to work through and then on to the HEA. What I got was quite different and much better – though if you’re going to have Lenora learn and play a newly written piano piece by Franz Schubert there’s no way she can also play Tchaikovsky!
Cassie is young and frustrated. This is an era when “on the shelf” arrived fairly quickly and she doesn’t want to reach her “sell by” date before she’s even been presented to society. There is a possible young man of interest whose attention might be caught so when her parents stick to their guns and long held policy of only having one daughter “out” at a time, Cassie is understandably upset and doesn’t spare the pouts. Wisely her mother will have none of it; unwisely, as it turns out, she suggests that outgoing Cassie help her sister.
Evan is a fish out of water. He has unexpectedly become heir (after the other heirs ahead of him died) to a great-uncle and risen from the position of a London clerk to the landed gentry. Unsure of this new society, he carefully observes but initially finds the people he meets ready and willing to accept him. Still, things can get overwhelming and he ducks out of one ball to relax in the garden where he almost meets a young lady.
The young lady tells her younger sister about this and it’s all Cassie needs to start the main plot in motion. Things soon move past what she expected when she and Evan begin to reveal truths and things about themselves to each other in their letters. This is when the story became something more. Evan knows that this world has different rules of courtship and he attempts to get advice on how to proceed rather then bashing on. He senses something isn’t quite right and tries to do the correct thing but events overtake the situation. He makes a commitment and suddenly, three people and two families are caught up in the consequences.
Generally in books with this type of cross purpose plot, somehow the full extent of the social scandal would be avoided or if not then the hero and heroine would be forced by that scandal into a relationship and things would go from there. Not here. When the news breaks and the dust settles, it’s about as bad as it could be. Cassie might have meant well and truly had her sister’s interest in mind but what she’s done has almost socially ruined the man she’s realized she loves and hurt her sister’s chances of matrimony. Worse than this, Evan’s family is arriving soon from London and will face ostracism if Cassie can’t come up with a plan.
With her parents furious at her, her sister humiliated, and Evan and his family about to step into the maw of village disapproval, Cassie steps up. It might be easier for her to do nothing but it isn’t the right thing to do and she knows it. Her conscience won’t let her slough off the public criticism three innocent people plus Evan are about to get hit with and in the face of her parents’ anger, she acts to ensure that the Glensides are accepted. Evan also faces the music and seeks to try to undo as much of the damage as he can.
Both of them give their word of honor not to attempt any contact with each other and they stick to it. I’m wondering, how on earth is this going to be fixed. There are all sorts of logical, good reasons based on the mores of the day why their relationship is dead in the water plus they’ve said they won’t write or talk to each other. Those who know what really happened are pleased that Evan and Cassie play by these imposed rules. Cassie shows that she’s truly a changed and better person while Evan does something of which Mr. Wilton approves but none of that has solved the romance problem.
It’s another person who also undergoes changes who nudges things along and provides the grease the wheels need. This bit might not agree with period sticklers and I’m not sure if in reality it would have won the day and eased public opinion but it’s not too far out enough for me to accept it. That it maybe sets this character up for an interesting story is beside the point but also a nice bit of icing on the cake.
What impressed me here is that there is real music to be faced because of what (mainly) Cassie and (a little bit) Evan did. It also calls for true character growth and change for them to reach their HEA. B+