⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars
In The Clergyman’s Wife we find ourselves intruding upon the lives of William and Charlotte Collins. This Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel begins a few years after Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennett’s cherished friend, marries awkward, harried Mr. Collins and settles down in the quaintly comfortable Hunsford parsonage in Kent. Charlotte, having hastily recommended herself for marriage to Mr. Collins when Elizabeth adamantly rejected him, has resigned herself to her melancholy existence as his wife. She’d perceived her marital prospects as slim given her lack of natural beauty and inconvenient social standing, which elevated her above the neighboring hopefuls thanks to her father’s favoring vanity over economic prudence, and now she recognizes the gravity of her impetuous decision. If this weren’t enough, their benefactress, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of whom William Collins is ridiculously solicitous, diligently oversees nearly every aspect of their living arrangement, to Charlotte’s dismay. So when Charlotte witnesses her sister, Maria’s, excitement over her betrothal to the man she actually loves, irrespective of how their family or acquaintances view his humble profession of Apothecary, her own decision to settle for security over love leaves her with a degree of regret and sadness. Can anyone restore her initial grateful countenance?
Mr. Travis, a tenant farmer, has been commissioned by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to beautify the Hunsford garden with roses. No botanist or gardener himself, but the son of one who painstakingly tended to the gardens of Rosing’s Park, Lady Catherine’s estate, Mr. Travis sets out to accomplish the task for which he’s been assigned. His work in the Hunsford garden necessitates regular visits to the Collins’ home of which Charlotte has grown accustomed. She is consciously aware of her anticipation of Mr. Travis’s visits and tries her utmost to appease herself with excuses for her imprudent feelings towards the man. Mr. Travis awakens her sensibilities in a way that her husband never has, and she is at once delighted by her thoughts and distressed by the impropriety associated with them. Charlotte is torn between loyalty to her well-meaning but emotionally distant husband and the anticipatory exhilaration in keeping congenial company with Mr. Travis. His apparent interest in her daughter, Louisa, her love of novels and sketching has enlivened Charlotte’s mundane existence, and has subsequently broadened her activities as a parson’s wife, impelling her to make visits upon the widows and elderly—bringing them gifts and conversing on a regular basis. Charlotte’s disposition has improved on account of Mr. Travis, and owing to this fact, her feeling of mortification and shame both chides her and spurs her on. What’s a loyal, morally upright woman to do?
If you loved Pride & Prejudice, or enjoy historical novels, you won’t want to miss The Clergyman’s Wife. Ms. Greeley’s melodious prose is descriptive and atmospheric; I could smell the damp leaves on the forest floor and hear the rustle of the dry leaves in the trees as the wind kicked up before a menacing downpour. I could see the Hunsford garden’s vibrant flowers swaying in the breeze while toddler, Louisa, squealed while frolicking. Events in the book evoked feelings of poignancy and mirth, and there was a nice balance between the two. The Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh characters so accurately embodied their familiar personalities from Pride and Prejudice that I found myself chuckling at their mannerisms and dialog, which was a real treat.
The Clergyman’s Wife is an even-paced, gentle read that elicits a feeling of longing to transport oneself back to the Regency era where gentility and propriety were the norm.
Thank you, William Morrow, for a free ARC of The Clergyman’s Wife, in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.
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