Reviewed by May
For years, nothing ever dented her; she had shaped the world to suit her, as surely as though sh were a signet ring and the world sealing wax.
Evie, the Countess of Wareham – a notorious woman who raised herself up from humble Irish roots to becoming an actress, famed courtesan, and wife of an Earl. Now that the Earl has passed away, she is left with enough to support herself (though not extravagantly) and a home in Pennyroyal Green. Realizing she has no friends, and wanting only a simple, secure, happy life she settles in and prepares to battle the locals for a place among them.
Her first stop, church. She falls asleep as the handsome Adam Sylvaine (aka the beloved Vicar) gives a most unusual sermon involving goats. Adam is related to the Eversea family that I’ve come to know and love in this series by Julie Anne Long. The great thing is – you don’t have to read them all or in any order to enjoy. Each stands alone beautifully, and I really like how Long weaves in characters from the past books, gives little details that will have fans of the series happy, but at the same time doesn’t make it hard to follow along for those just joining in.
To say that a former courtesan and a Vicar would be an unusual pairing is an understatement, but I really felt it worked. Evie, for all her polish and her stony defenses, is just a poor girl who did what she could to make life for herself and her family better than what they were raised with. Adam is something special too – he clearly needed to make a living, and rather than accept but resent being the Vicar, he embraces it fully determined to lead, help, and set an example by a life well lived for his community.
The tension and the attraction between him and Evie is instant, and their conversations were a highlight of this book.
“Is that why you’ve suddenly appeared? Did you scent iniquity on the wind then, Reverend Sylvaine? Do you roam the Sussex countryside sniffing for it, like a truffle-hunting pig?”
Both of these characters are very much alone in the world, both using the sheer force of their will to stand tall, do their duties, and not let anyone bring them down. Both are such strong characters, each tormented in their own ways and each needing so badly that special someone – it was easy to see how they were perfect for each other. Even among a crowd – neither feels connected. Yet Adam can’t just jump into bed with the tempting Countess either.
“Many of my parishioners will live and die in Pennyroyal Green; many may never set foot in London. And they live and die by a set of rules they feel hasn’t yet failed them. Those rules include attending church regularly, making an effort to avoid appearing in the scandal sheets or cause riots at the opera as a result of wearing gowns that may or may not expose nipples, and not accepting an allowance an fine lodgings in exchange for having sex with a member of parliament. They find such things, in fact, alarming and threatening to everything they hold dear.”
I really appreciated how the author developed this relationship, as well as show she showed Evie trying so very hard to make friends and be a credit to her new community. I also loved that from the start, Adam really does see her for who she is and not just label and dismiss her. He is a strong man, a good man. He isn’t a scoundrel or a rake in need of reforming – he’s just a very yummy Vicar that all the towns ladies try to woo with jars of preserves and honey and baked goods.
Evie herself, is an equally good person, so very likeable. I was so happy that instead of harboring secrets or pretending innocence she is very upfront with Adam about who she is and the choices she’s made. She wants friends, she wants to be a part of the community, and yet judgment is what she gets and prejudice is thrown in her face at every opportunity. Even when she makes progress, her new friends are quick to assume the worst of her. It’s clear that time and much patience will be needed before Evie is accepted fully, but it is also clear that she is too wonderful of a woman for them to ever refuse. I really liked reading about her interactions with the local young ladies, as well as her efforts to be a positive part of the community.
This story is a love story – focused on these characters and their growing relationship and bond, as well as giving us a well-developed cast of supporting characters to love as well. There isn’t much else happening plot wise – and it wasn’t needed either. The story let us really spend our time getting to know and care for these characters and I enjoyed my time in Pennyroyal Green. While a bit slow at times, it was a delightful read and most excellent addition to this series.