For weeks in advance of the its release, talk about Priest has been inundating my social media feeds. It’s no surprise that, like so many others, I started this book soon after it went live to see what all the fuss was about.
Father Tyler Bell has been a Catholic priest for three years when Poppy Danforth comes into his church for confession. Just listening to Poppy speak, stirs something long repressed in Father Bell…
“A really base and awful part of me wanted to hear her confession still, not so I could give her more specific counseling and assurance, but so that I could know exactly what carnal things this girl had to apologize for. I wanted to hear her whisper those things in her breathy voice, I wanted to take her into my arms and kiss away every single tear. God, I wanted to touch her.”
Father Bell seemed to have the utmost respect and love for the church. He was particularly dedicated to his work to build trust within the parishioners after his family experienced the ultimate betrayal by a priest some years ago. Father Bell wasn’t a saint, but he’s trying to live a life of example for his congregation. Until Poppy…
I felt Father Bell’s struggle with the rules of the church, his growing feelings for Poppy and the dark desires she brings out in him. OTOH, I didn’t really feel like I got to know Poppy that well. We get the basics of who she is, what leads her to the church; but that’s really it. Perhaps because the book is from Father Bell’s POV, Poppy gets lost in the sauce for the most part. Instead of standing on her own, she’s no more than a vessel for Father Bell’s lust and sin.
I don’t really define myself as particularly religious nowadays, but having grown up in the Catholic church there were some plot points that I think went a bit too far for me. I mean c’mon, the manner in which Father Bell and Poppy defile the church sanctuary…pure, unadulterated sacrilege.
Additionally, some may be offended by Father Bell’s dialogue — he is not afraid to drop the f-bombs and dirty sex talk rather liberally. I didn’t find it objectionable because Tyler didn’t live a pure, pious life before the priesthood so it’s not surprising that he’d still have some impure thoughts/language. That said, I did feel like the author pushed the envelop with the dialogue and the sex to scandalize and titillate. For me, it felt a bit forced at times instead of authentic from someone who is trying to live piously but slips.
Overall, I liked Priest but it’s not the modern-day epic romance of The Thorn Birds. I actually had trouble connecting with the love story between the protagonists as it’s overshadowed by copious amounts of dirty, kinky sex.
Even though it ends with a HEA, this novel was more about shock value than love and romance for me. If you can get past the blasphemous moments, Priest is still an engaging and well-written read.