To Love and to Cherish by Patricia Gaffney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In my bid to read more romance, I hit upon two awfully similar books. I couldn't help but compare this to The Notorious Countess Confesses. It's a sweet story, but it suffers by comparison.
Christian "Christy" Morrell is the vicar of Wyckerly, a small English village. His best friend, Geoffrey Verlaine, returns on the death of his father, bringing with him his lovely wife, Anne. Geoffrey is considerably more bitter and mean than Christy remembers. Anne and Christy grow close, especially when Geoffrey goes off to war.
To Love and to Cherish is formula historical romance, even if the hero is beta all the way. (Apparently lovable men in the past were either rakes or priests.) Man and woman meet, are attracted to one another, are kept apart by circumstances, until they aren't. The final obstacle is easy to guess.
I was able to identify with the characters, and feel invested in their success. Their relationship unfolds realistically, with no artificial constructs to hold them back. Everything that keeps them apart is fully supported by the rest of the story and the setting. The characters lack the dynamic energy of the last romance novel I read, but, by themselves, they're well-rounded.
This book carries a content warning for rape, though it has to be the strangest handling of rape I've ever read. The act redeems the perpetrator, instead of illustrating how irredeemable he is, and the person it happens to seems unaffected, except to provide that redemption. It seems like a milder course of action might've taken the place of the rape, with no effect on the narrative whatever.
The religious theme runs strong in this book. Anne's subplot is that she finds religion, while Christy's faith strengthens. It's too smutty to be a Christian romance novel, but those of a Christian bent will appreciate its themes more.
This is a fun romance novel for those seeking historical with a beta male hero. I do not recommend reading it soon after reading another one you really liked, though; it lacks the tension of other historical romance novels I've liked, and the choice to include a rape, rather than ramping up that tension, just proves puzzling.
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