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Fashion disasters or forbidden fruit; what is it that makes fictional vicars such fabulous characters?

Fictional vicars and priests are often portrayed in one of two ways, either they’ve got halitosis, a wardrobe fully of hand-crocheted tank tops and elasticated nylon trousers, or they’re brooding, handsome and filled with angst from the torment of forbidden love. When I plotted A Leap of Faith for the Cornish Midwife, I joked with my editor that I’d be including a hot vicar to set pulses racing in Port Agnes. But Noah doesn’t really fit either of the stereotypes I’ve described. Although he’s got his fair share of admirers in the congregation and an Instagram following of people who definitely think he’s hot, it’s not all about the way he looks. For me, there are other qualities that make someone attractive and ‘hot’ is not even a term I’d use to describe someone in real life. If I did, my children would probably disown me! Which means that the vicars and priests who’ve made it on to my ‘hot list’ are either there as the perfect representation of troubled heroes, or because they embody kindness, self-belief and the quiet strength needed to help others through the toughest of times. Reverend Noah Andrews in A Leap of Faith for the Cornish Midwife is all of those things and I’d be including him in my list if I could. Admittedly, there might be more than person who did make it on to the list, who’s also pretty easy on the eye, but that’s just a coincidence I promise!

I had to start with Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds. The ultimate icon of forbidden love, tormented by his desire for a woman he can never have, unless he gives up everything he believes in. I was far too young to watch this series, but somehow I still remember it. I think there might have been some sneaky peeking through a crack in the sitting room door, when it was on the TV!

Next on my list is a vicar from a far more recent TV show The Split. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith plays Glen Peters, who first appears in the series as the vicar performing youngest sister, Rose’s wedding. In the final series he takes on a far more central role, but I don’t want to say too much in case it’s a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t finished the series yet. Suffice it to say, it’s his quiet strength and understanding that puts him on my list. Oh and his voice is simply beautiful too.

Next up is an entry that I think might be controversial, but he’s a character I absolutely adore for his generous heart and gentle humour. He’s the quintessential beta hero, but I could happily imagine being this particular vicar’s wife in a cottage somewhere in the Cotswolds. I’m talking about Reverend Francis Seaton from This Country, of course, played by the brilliant Paul Chahidi. Francis is unfailingly kind, but there are hidden depths too, with a wannabe-rock-star past and the ability to show his human side and finally run out of patience. He tries to make the lives of everyone around him better and I don’t care what anyone says, Reverend Seaton is staying on my list.