Gossip swirls around the countryside village of Shepton Worthy when Beryl Burnham finally returns from an extended stay in Paris. Dressed in couture dresses by her generous aunt and engaged to Sir Henry, the lord of the local manor, Beryl has nothing but happiness looming in her future. What then could have made a young woman stay away from home for close to a year? (Or was it nine months?) And why is it that she continues to mope about? What could she possibly be running from? And why is it that the only person who seems to understand is Sir Henry’s younger brother, the curate?
Mark Rivenhall never yearned to enter the Church, but his compassionate nature makes him a sympathetic friend and a wonderful counselor. When he sees Beryl back in Shepton Worthy, he can barely hide the beating of his heart under his black cassock. Still, it’s impossible to be more than a friend to her–older brother Henry has made clear his claim on her. Concealing his affections, Mark determines to find a way to support Beryl in her melancholy, not to “fix” her as so many others seem determined to do, and the first step on his plan is to give the woman a dog…
This short but perfect novella has an understated hero that is nothing like the alpha males of most romances. Mark Rivenhall is thoughtful, kind, restrained, and yes, romantic. His sincerity and empathy contrast with his brother Henry’s callous and calculating nature (and yet Henry is a well-rounded character despite that, as so many of Mimi Matthews’ secondary characters are). Mark is the man you rarely meet in the pages of a historical novel, but also the man that you would actually want beside you “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.” In short, Mark Rivenhall, Victorian curate, is the man real romances are made of. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.