Badass (?): Reverend Adam Sylvaine, brawny yet contemplative Eversea cousin, discovering his vocation, serving the flock of Pennyroyal Green as their vicar while dodging the lustful and marriage-minded pursuits of the entire female population.
Falls For: Eve Duggan, widowed Countess of Wareham, notorious former Covent Garden actress, courtesan, and all-around Scandalous Woman.
Brought to You By: Julie Anne Long, in A Notorious Countess Confesses (2012) (7th in the Pennyroyal Green series)
Hangs Out In: The pulpit, the vicarage, and a certain bedchamber at Damask Manor.
Likes: Children and old people, sarcastic and scandalous old women in particular.
Dislikes: Anyone making snide, insinuating comments about Evie’s past.
Badass Hero Moment: When a man of the cloth throws a punch, or offers up five pounds he doesn’t have, you know it’s meaningful. Fortunately, he’s also forceful and persuasive from the pulpit. Definitely a winning combination.
Badass Annoying Moment: Makes snide — beyond insinuating — comments about Evie’s past. (At that point, though, they were both pretty much acting like idiots.)
(too) Frequently Described As: Golden.
(Richard Chamberlain, The Thorn Birds, 1983)
Ha ha. JAL has a clever bit of dialogue around the fact that Rev. Sylvaine doesn’t wear a “dress” (a cassock), and he’s (obviously) not a Catholic priest. He’s really more like a lanky, broad-shouldered country gentleman who happens to have the care of a church and its flock of parishioners rather in place of an estate. Still, the contrast between his outward control and inner lust, along with the inevitable loss of control and explosive sex reminded me of the infamous Father Ralph. Yes, I know Pennyroyal Green is a million miles from the Australian outback and really there’s nothing else similar about these two. But it made me smile to think about the Thorn Birds!
To Read Or Not To Read? So. The whole thing about Adam being a vicar really got me thinking, though, about what had to be different about him — from the other Eversea and Redmond males — in order to make him believable as both an alpha hero and a clergyman. I think both Adam and Evie were just kind of too… something… maybe it’s that they were both too earnest. It must have been a challenge to write him in such a way that he’d come across as a red-blooded…well… badass like his cousins Colin and Ian. These two, who we’ve already met and married off in prior books, make regular appearances here, checking up on Adam. It’s as if Long uses them to give Adam some badass glamour by association. I kept trying to figure out if he needed this kind of bucking up, or if he really is just a kind of beta badass, who keeps a low profile but is a force to be reckoned with when pushed to his limit.
What’s more convincing is Adam as a man exploring his calling as a caretaker of souls, even as a somewhat ambivalent sermon-writer and preacher. His humility as he discovers his gift and his vocation are nicely conveyed. But combined with the fact that Evie spends almost the entire book doing good works of one kind or another (she visits the parish poor, she makes huge and almost irrevocable sacrifices in order to provide for her own poor relations) there may have been too much humble pie for me.
That’s always part of the problem with a (former) courtesan heroine; there always have to be dire circumstances that forced her to sell herself, she has to be stoic and/or unapologetic about being a fallen woman, and she has to refuse to “drag down” the hero, before they can arrive at the HEA.
Bottom line — these two could not have made more incompatible career choices, and it just wasn’t quite as sparkling and fun — or even as funny — as the preceding Pennyroyals. I don’t know if I’m going to start giving letter grades, but if I had to, this would be a solid B. Anything from JAL is just so beautifully written and Pennyroyal Green is a place to which one wants to return again and again.
Tangentially Related … and Possibly Diverting: The setting in quaint PG, with the requisite assortment of odd and earnest villagers, at one point taking turns in a dramatic recitation of 1st Corinthians that is both sweet and ridiculous, also made me think about funny old Dibley.
Romance arrived for our dear Vicar of Dibley in the HILARIOUS episodes where Dawn French lusted after, and landed, smoldering Richard Armitage. Found this awesome video of Armitage and French romancing and goofing around together. I firmly believe any excuse to watch Richard Armitage should be taken advantage of, so Enjoy!
Who’s your favorite badass sexy preacher man? Can a clergyman be a convincing alpha hero?