Vicar Dan Miller is firmly in the closet in his new parish. Could the inhabitants of a sedate Hampshire village ever accept a gay priest? Trickier than that, how can he hide his attraction for one of his flock, Steve Dexter?
Encouraged by his ex-partner to seize the day, Dan determines to tell Steve how he feels, only to discover that Steve’s been getting poison pen letters and suspicion falls on his fellow parishioners. When compassion leads to passion, they have to conceal their budding relationship, but the arrival of more letters sends Dan scuttling back into the closet.
I really enjoyed Don’t Kiss the Vicar. I feel I should point out to potential readers that the novella is set in England and is written by an English author, and with that being said, it is a VERY English novel. So if you are a reader who has problems with British terminology, this probably won’t be the book for you. Fortunately, despite my wholly American upbringing, I adore English authors and their novels (well, at least the contemporary ones) and Don’t Kiss the Vicar was not only an enjoyable story, but also an informative one as I learned about another religion’s views on homosexuality among its clergymen.
In an effort to find his place in his role as vicar in a new parish, Dan has kept a lid on his homosexuality as he does not believe it will be well-received news in the small Hampshire village. He has done such a good job of it, that he had no idea that the parishioner he is attracted to feels the same way. The fact that Steve can be quite combative verbally didn’t hurt either. Honestly, were it not for an accident, the two men might have never learned that the other was gay. While the precipitating event was unpleasant, and led to an equally unpleasant revelation on Steve’s part about the “poison pen” letters he was receiving, the incidents gave them the much needed opportunity to clear the air, so to speak. With this being a novella, things do move rather quickly once their mutual attraction is revealed, but considering all that each man is dealing with at the time, it is understandable and believable. But when the letters continue and Dan is unsure of what to do, his hesitation causes a riff in the new relationship.
Cochrane strikes a nice balance between the religious issues, the romance, and the romantic suspense elements. I kind of enjoyed that Dan and Steve were so intent on not outing themselves, that they nearly missed out on each other. The small circle of parishioners we meet over the course of the book were, for the most part, quite delightful – as much as I liked Harry, it was Mavis who had me chuckling. I was surprised by the few reactions we were privy to once Dan’s secret was out. Even though their relationship was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, with things happening relatively quickly, I found its progression believable. What did surprise me was the romantic suspense angle because far more happened in the thread than I would have expected for a novella. Don’t Kiss the Vicar was an enjoyable read and I look forward to checking out more of Cochrane’s writing.