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Posts Tagged ‘Mimi Matthews’

(Parish Orphans of Devon #4)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

She needed to be seen…

As a lady’s companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that’s precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it’s far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a monthlong holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she’d hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He wanted to be heard…

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady’s companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do? 

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This sweet, uplifting and heart-warming love story was an enchanting finale to Mimi Matthews’s best-selling Parish Orphans of Devon series

While I loved all the previous heroes in this series, there is just something special about Neville that captured my heart. At times, I wanted to reach into the book and hug him so tight. Through his thoughts and feelings, Ms. Matthews gives the reader an insight into how the effects of Neville’s injury have shaped his life.

Ever since Justin had provided a home for him at Greyfriars Abbey, it has been a place where Neville felt safe and secure, and happy working with the animals. It was sad to realise how his speech impediment had defined his life choices.

Ambitions required aptitude. The ability to learn and grow. And there was no fixing his speech. No remedy to the fact that it made him seem slow and stupid.

I had a lot of sympathy for Clara, a romantic at heart, whose youthful indiscretion had such an impact on her life. Not only did she lose her own teaching job, but her brother, Simon, lost his tutor and the local squire’s patronage too. Taking responsibility for the damage she had caused to her family’s reputation and her brother’s prospects, she has taken a position as a companion to help pay for Simon’s school fees.

It was her own cross to bear. Her secret shame.

As a companion, she is expected to fade into the background, but I admire her for having ambitions beyond society’s normal expectations for a woman.

Ms. Matthews beautifully nuanced and eloquent writing made this one of the loveliest romances I have ever read. I loved how the focus of the story was on Neville and Clara’s developing relationship, showing their feelings for each other gradually evolving and allowing the romance to flourish in a natural way. It’s a journey of discovery for them as individuals and as a couple.

I love how Clara is just perfect for Neville. She understands his struggle in a way that no one else does – how frustrating and painful it must be for someone as intelligent as Neville to struggle with forming even a simple sentence.

A flicker of sympathy stirred in her breast. What must it be like? To be thoughtful and intelligent and unable to express it? To have to struggle for every word?

She also sees how capable, strong, honest, kind and gentle he is.

Neville sees not only Clara’s outward beauty but also her inner beauty, something he feels that only he is privileged to see. I love how he encouraged her to read poetry and novels again, something she hasn’t done for many years.

My heart went out to Neville when Clara in forced to leave and he believes he will never see her again, but it makes him realise that he wants what his friends have…a life of his own and a chance at happiness with Clara.

He did want more. He wanted a life of his own choosing.
He wanted her

I loved Neville’s determination to help Clara. It took at lot of courage, knowing that he would have to face his fears and insecurities head on, but it showed the depth of his love for her.

There are so many lovely moments in this book that it was difficult to pick just two.

He rested his forehead gently against hers. And the emotion imbued in that single gesture was so sweet, so tender, she felt she might drown in it. That she might lose herself entirely.

His heart clenched. Having her on his arm, bright and beautiful, and singing so sweetly. There was a rightness to it that was almost painful. He wanted to keep it close. To save the moment forever, like a winter flower pressed between the pages of a book.

I was pleased to see Clara eventually cleared of the stain on her reputation, and I enjoyed seeing how she handled her selfish, ungrateful brother, Simon.

I always appreciate the historical details and social commentary Ms. Matthews brings to her books. Here it is the month-long Christmas celebrations at Greyfriars Abbey with the freshly cut Christmas tree, pine boughs, holly, mistletoe, and the delicious Christmas feast. Ms. Matthews also highlights the inequality in education where women were excluded from going to university.

The Epilogue provided the perfect end to both this book and the series. I sighed, knowing that all four of the orphaned friends had now found love, acceptance and happiness.

”There’s happiness.” Clara rested her head on his shoulder. “There’s this. Every day. With you. For the rest of our lives. The stuff of dreams.”

I can highly recommend not only this book but the whole series.



Originally posted on Goodreads

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(Parish Orphans of Devon #3)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

She Needed a Husband…

It’s been three years since Laura Hayes’s father died, leaving her and her invalid brother to subsist on the income from the family’s failing perfume business. But time is swiftly running out. What she needs is a husband, and fast. A noble gentleman who can rescue them all from penury. When a mysterious stranger arrives in the village, he seems a perfect candidate. But Alex Archer is no hero. In fact, he just might be the opposite.

He Wanted a Fortune…

Alex has no tolerance for sentiment. He’s returned to England for one reason only: to find a wealthy wife. A country-bred heiress in Surrey seems the perfect target. But somewhere between the village railway station and the manor house his mercenary plan begins to unravel. And it’s all the fault of Laura Hayes—a lady as unsuitable as she is enchanting.

From the beaches of Margate to the lavender fields of Provence, a grudging friendship slowly blossoms into something more. But when scandal threatens, can a man who has spent his entire life playing the villain, finally become a hero? Or will the lure of easy riches once again outweigh the demands of his heart?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

Whenever, I pick up a book by Mimi Matthews, it’s always a treat to read. Her stories are beautifully written and wonderfully romantic, with characters that capture your heart. They are impeccably researched with lots of fascinating historical details, and she captures the Victorian era to perfection.

A Convenient Fiction is the third book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series and, although it can be read as standalone, I think it enhances the reading experience if the series is read in order.

I have been waiting for Alex’s book to discover what happened to him after he mysteriously ran away from the orphanage at the age of thirteen, leaving his friends to wonder at his fate – never knowing whether he is alive or dead. It transpires that he is very much alive and, for the past twenty years, his aptitude at cards has enabled him to make a lucrative living at the card tables in London and France, by luring unsuspecting gentlemen into gambling recklessly and losing. More than money, he wants property that will give him a sense of permanency and the only way to achieve this is to marry an heiress.

But it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough without property. Property was the thing. And for a man of his pedigree, the only way to attain such property was to marry an heiress.

His opportunity arises when George Wright incurs large losses which Alex agrees to forget in return for an introduction to George’s friend and neighbour, Henrietta Talbot, an heiress with property. Accompanying George to Surrey, Alex has every intention of wooing and marrying Henrietta, but his plans become somewhat derailed when he meets the beautiful and fascinating Laura Hayes.

Three years ago, Laura, her father and her younger brother, Edward (Teddy), all contracted a fever. While Laura made a full recovery, her father died and her brother was left an invalid and confined to a wheelchair. Since then, Laura has been caring for her widowed Aunt Charlotte and Freddy, struggling to survive on the meagre quarterly allowance received from her father’s solicitor, Mr. Weatherwax. On his 21st birthday, which is fast approaching, Teddy will take control of his inheritance and Laura is determined to rebuild the remains of the family perfumery business. However, Mr. Weatherwax refuses to relinquish control on the grounds that her brother is too ill to take on the responsibilities.

”Unless I can find a way to challenge him, my family must resign themselves to living on the quarterly allowance he provides us. It isn’t enough. Not nearly.”

With everything else to worry about, Laura certainly doesn’t need the added complication of her attraction to the handsome newcomer, Alex Archer. They are constantly thrown into each other’s company as Laura is acting as Henrietta’s chaperone and, although they admit that there is something between them, both are determined to forget it and move on.

”But now we’ve acknowledged it…perhaps we’ve robbed it of its power. We can move on. Forget any of this ever happened.”

However, a trip to Margate changes everything. In the course of saving Laura’s life, Alex’s actions cause a scandal and he proposes a marriage of convenience to save Laura’s reputation – a temporary measure for a month or two and then they are free to go their separate ways. But things don’t always go to plan.

As I have come to expect from Ms. Matthews, this was a charming, tender, romantic, character driven romance which develops in a natural way. It was very satisfying to see how Alex and Laura grew, both as individuals and a couple, and I also love how Ms. Matthews creates just the perfect chemistry between them.

What a complex and fascinating character Alex is. At first, he seems more anti-hero than hero – a man who willingly betrayed his friends; an unscrupulous gambler and a self-confessed fortune hunter; a man who selfishly pursues his own interests without blinking an eye. It was hard to understand how he could have betrayed his friends who were the only family he had ever had. But when he reveals the circumstances that drove him to it, I could appreciate the sheer desperation Alex must have felt and why he would do anything to get away. He had no one to turn to and who would have believed an orphan like him.

He’d known then that, if he wanted saving, he would have to save himself. Even if that meant burning all of his bridges behind him.

Laura shows great strength of character and determination and I respect her for taking on the heavy burden of looking after the family. That she sometimes rages against her current situation, I could certainly relate to. I’m sure everyone has had times when everything seems to get on top of them.

She senses that Alex is hiding his true self…

…there was always something else there—something lurking behind his eyes. A secret self, hidden from the world. It was as if he wore a very lifelike mask.

He is convinced that he is not a good man but, to Laura, he has been ‘every inch a hero’ from the very first day they met, with his kindness to Teddy and Aunt Charlotte, his desire to help and protect Laura, and his willingness to save her life, despite his fear of water, and to save her reputation.

Alex sees Laura as beautiful and charming but also incredibly brave and compassionate too. He has been alone for so long with no one to trust or rely on, no friend or family. Now he has Laura.

”I’ve never had a home to yearn for.” He took her hand gently in his. “Not until you.”

Even though he hasn’t told Laura he loves her, it’s evident in his every word and action, but when he does finally say the words, the whole scene is so romantic.

I wonder if there is such a thing as fate. Some force that drew me to you, across continents, and across the sea. I think I knew you the moment I laid eyes on you. My love. My Laura.”

Ms. Matthews always seems to incorporate some fascinating historical details into her books and I particularly enjoyed the part describing the bathing machines, the ‘promiscuous’ bathing, as Aunt Charlotte calls it, and the nosey parkers with their telescopes.

The scene in the Epilogue where Alex sees Justin and Neville for the first time in 20 years was so emotional that it brought tears to my eyes, but left me with such a lovely warm glow.

It was as if a page had been turned on a dark chapter of their lives, offering a clean slate. A new beginning.

Another excellent addition to this captivating series. Highly recommended!


Originally posted on Goodreads


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(Parish Orphans of Devon #2)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads):

He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

A Modest Independence is the second book in Mimi Matthews’ Parish Orphans of Devon series. Both the hero, Thomas (Tom) Finchley, and the heroine, Jenny Holloway, had important roles in The Matrimonial Advertisement. Tom was Justin’s solicitor and Jenny, Helena’s distant cousin and companion.

I found it refreshing that Tom is not your stereotypical hero. He is neither titled nor is there is anything exceptional about his appearance. However, with hard work and determination, he has risen above his humble beginnings in the orphanage to become a solicitor. Tom has always been in control of every aspect of his life and is totally dedicated to his work and the clients he represents are sometimes less than honourable.

At the age of twenty-eight, Jenny has always been at someone else’s beck and call – first as little more than a drudge for her drunkard of a father and her selfish brothers, and then as Helena’s companion. She has always longed to be independent and fulfil her dreams of travelling and when she receives the money from Helena, I can understand why she is so determined to embrace her newfound freedom.

In The Matrimonial Advertisement, while helping Helena, Tom and Jenny formed a close friendship and it seemed possible that it might have developed into something more. Unfortunately Tom’s actions created friction between them, but the long journey to India allows the strong attraction to flourish and turn to love.

I like how they come to confide in each other and talk openly about their feelings and why they can never be together. Ms. Matthews captures their emotional turmoil so well that, even though I knew that there would be a Happy Ever After, it seemed an impossibility because they both want very different things from life. Jenny is unwilling to give up her independence while Tom has built a life for himself in London and has clients who depend on him.

Tom has his faults but ultimately he proves to be a true hero. He is willing to let Jenny go to pursue her dreams regardless of the heartbreak it causes him. For me such self-sacrifice shows the depth of his love for her. I like how he took a long hard look at himself and the choices he had made in his career and resolved only to represent those who truly deserved his help.

Jenny now has her freedom but realises that she is alone and has no one to share her adventures with. She has been afraid to trust anyone because her family has always let her down. Jenny loves Tom and, in her heart, she knows that she can marry him and not lose her independence.

The journey forms a interesting and colourful backdrop to the romance and Ms. Matthews’ research is evident in the fascinating details she incorporates into the story, bringing to life the vibrant sights and sounds of the places they visit. The use of the Bradshaw’s Guide was especially interesting to me having watched Michael Portillo’s BBC TV series, in which he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide.

The mystery surrounding Helena’s brother Giles, the social and political commentary, and the secondary characters all add to the story.

There is a charming Epilogue which also paves the way for the next book, A Convenient Fiction which is Alex’s story.

Once again, Ms. Matthews delivers a beautifully written, emotionally satisfying and meticulously researched Victorian romance. Highly recommended.


Originally posted on Goodreads


NOTE

If you would like to read my 4.25 star review of The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans #1) on Goodreads click on the link below.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2538419431

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Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Amazon):

She couldn’t forget
Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nicholas is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nicholas escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nicholas never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive
After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I have loved every one of Mimi Matthews’ books I have read, and GENTLEMAN JIM is no exception. She skillfully blends an exciting story of mystery, revenge and intrigue with an emotionally charged second-chance love story.

The way that Ms. Matthews conveys the inseparable bond between the young Maggie and Nicholas in the Prologue is so beautifully done. I loved Nicholas’ gentle teasing:

“…I never do what?”
“Stare at my bosom.”
Heat rose in his cheeks. He looked at her a moment, dumbstruck, before giving her a crooked smile. “What bosom?”

and Maggie’s fiery temper:

“The blackguard!” Maggie’s low voice trembled with fury. “The confounded coward!…”

It was heart-breaking to see Maggie and Nicholas torn apart by Fred’s evil machinations, but it compelled me to read on, desperate to know what happened to them.

Ten years have passed, and I was sad to notice the change in Maggie. A bout of influenza and two periods of mourning for her father and aunt have left her in a fragile state of health. As executor of her father’s will, I hated how much control Fred exerted over Maggie’s life and how she had no choice but to marry him if she wished to retain her beloved home, Beasley Park. Despite everything, Maggie’s spirit has never been broken and this is clearly seen later on in the story.

…what she lacked in physical stamina, she more than made up for in spirit. In heart.

John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare, the Earl of Allendale’s grandson, has recently returned to England after spending many years on the continent. His whole bearing proclaims him as someone of wealth and privilege since birth. He is known for his coldness – a man who ‘never lets his emotions get the better of his reason’. His grandfather is eager for him to find a wife to secure the survival of the family line.

When Maggie goes to London to stay with her friend, Jane Trumble, she discovers that Fred is to fight a duel with Viscount St. Clare. Fearful of what would happen to Beasley Park should Fred be killed, Maggie goes to see St. Clare in the hope of stopping the duel. She is shocked to see that he bears an uncanny resemblance to her beloved Nicholas!

I knew in my heart of hearts that St.Clare and Nicholas Seaton must be one and the same person, but Ms. Matthews certainly kept me in suspense. How on earth could an illegitimate, lowly groom become a well-educated and much travelled viscount? Even Maggie has her doubts at first, but the clues are there – the eyes, the smile, the way he says her name, and the one thing that ultimately proclaims, beyond a shadow of a doubt, his true identity.

“Great God, I knew it.” Her eyes found his, a glimmer of triumph shining in their liquid sapphire depths. “It really is you.”

The romance is so beautifully written, and I could feel the depth of their love for each other – both willing to give up on their dreams to be together. I think this is definitely the most sensual book Ms. Matthews has written, and she succeeds in making a single kiss or a look far more effective than any number of tedious sex scenes.

Their happiness is threatened by Fred who is always scheming to drive them apart, and Cousin Lionel and his mother who are spreading rumours to cast doubt on St. Clare’s legitimacy. I’m delighted to say that they all get their just deserts.

At first, I disliked Clare’s grandfather. It seemed that all he cared about was securing the family title, and St. Clare meant nothing to him other than a means to an end. However, his actions later in the story reveal how much he truly cares for his grandson. I liked Maggie’s friend, Jane Trumble, and her maid, Bessie, who showed such loyalty. Jane’s Aunt Harriet, their supposed chaperone, made me smile with her habit of falling asleep the minute she sits down and her inability to hear anything without her ear trumpet!

Although deceased, Gentleman Jim has a strong presence in the book and the mystery surrounding his true identity and his relevance to the characters and events in the story was intriguing.

The icing on the cake was a truly charming Epilogue.

Another wonderful book by one of my favourite authors. Highly recommended.

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Genre: Historical Romance

Cover Blurb (Amazon):

An Uncommon Beauty…
Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland — a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…
Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her — and her heart — in more danger than ever?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I always look forward to reading one of Mimi Matthews’ books because I’m assured of an engaging and tender romance that is elegantly written with characters that capture your heart. THE WORK OF ART has a Regency setting rather than her usual Victorian one, but Ms. Matthews’ research is equally impeccable.

Since returning from the Peninsula War three years ago, Arthur Heywood has been in constant pain from a serious leg wound, forcing him to walk with a stick, and his right hand also sustained severe injury. Riding and shooting were an important part of who he had once been and he’s finding it hard to come to terms with the limitations imposed by his injuries. In recurring nightmarish dreams, Arthur constantly relives the harrowing events that followed his last battle. He has given up all hope of ever enjoying any sort of normal life again, and lives a reclusive existence at his country estate in Somerset. When his father sends him to London to contract some business on his behalf with financier Edgar Townsend, Arthur has every intention of returning to Somerset as soon as the business is concluded – that is until he meets Townsend’s niece, Phyllida (Philly) Satterthwaite, a young lady desperately in need of someone to rescue her from an untenable situation.

Phyllida Satterthwaite had once enjoyed a contented life living with her grandfather in rural Devon. She loved nothing more than going on rambles with her motley assortment of rescued dogs. Her circumstances change after her grandfather dies and she goes to live in London with her Uncle Edgar, the only living heir to her grandfather’s estate. Although unhappy, she is determined to make the best of her situation. Her uncle has promised to finance a season for her so that she might find herself a suitable husband but, when she discovers that he has already literally sold her to the menacing Duke of Moreland, she turns to the only person she feels she can confide in, Arthur Heywood.

I have a soft spot for damaged heroes like Arthur. He has been scarred both physically and mentally by his wartime experiences and has lost all sense of self-worth, believing that his loss of physical prowess now defines who he is. At heart, he is honourable, kind, thoughtful and steadfast, qualities that come to the fore in his determination to help Philly and keep her safe. Philly is such a lovely heroine. Her kindness, gentleness and compassion are balm to Arthur’s troubled spirit and, when they first meet, I love how she is so attuned to his difficulties and helps him in an unobtrusive way.

The ‘marriage of convenience’ is a favourite of mine and Arthur and Philly are such an engaging couple. I love how their initial bond of friendship, based on mutual liking, respect and trust, develops into a tentative attraction, which gradually blossoms into love. How refreshing to see them actually discuss any problems and misunderstandings before they became insurmountable.

It was so heart-warming to see the changes Philly brings to Arthur’s life. With her gentle encouragement, he takes daily walks, slowly regaining some of his physical strength and his sense of hope. Heywood House had been a place of gloom, but Philly had made it feel like a real home. I loved Arthur’s determination to protect Philly and, in doing so, he becomes a true hero.

It was undeniably Arthur. But it wasn’t her Arthur. It wasn’t the husband who kissed her and called her his sweetheart. No. This was a different man. A dangerous man. This was Captain Arthur Heywood. This was the soldier who had crushed a man’s throat with one bare hand.

Among the secondary characters there’s Philly’s devious and avaricious Uncle Edgar; her cold-hearted aunt, Mrs Vale; her horrid cousins, Elizabeth and Abigail; the cold and menacing Duke of Moreland; the conniving Mrs Eliot, and not forgetting Philly’s sundry canines.

The mystery of who is threatening Philly added an intriguing layer to story, and the culprit’s identity was certainly a surprise I didn’t see coming.

A lovely, heart-warming and beautifully written romance with just a touch of mystery. Highly recommended.

Originally posted on Goodreads

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Holiday by Gaslight

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian, 1861)

Book Blurb:

A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was such a charming, heart-warming romance – just the perfect start to my Christmas reading. 

Sir William Appersett is virtually bankrupt, having squandered most of the family fortune, together with his eldest daughter Sophie’s dowry, on modernisations to Appersett House. With no male heir, he regards the house as his only enduring legacy. Now he and his wife have brought Sophie and her younger sister, Emily, to London in the hope of finding them wealthy husbands.

Edward (Ned) Sharpe, a draper’s son, is a highly successful and wealthy factory owner. For the past twelve months, he has been considering marriage, but it is only when he sees Sophie Appersett that he seriously contemplates getting married and approaches her father for permission to court her

He’d wanted her from the first. Had known as soon as he looked at her that she was someone worth having in his life, no matter the cost.

Sir William is more than agreeable to Edward courting his daughter because he fully expects that Edward will provide the necessary funds for the next phase of his modernisations. Sophie is not averse to marrying Edward, hoping that, given time, he would come to care for her or even love her. But, after two months of courtship, she can no longer contemplate spending her life with a man who is so solemn, unemotional and lacking in conversation and calls off the courtship.

He never betrayed his feelings with a look or a word. And when it came to conversation, silence was, by far, his favorite subject.

Being unfamiliar with all the rules governing courtship among the upper classes, Edward had turned for advice to the Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette…not very sound advice as it turns out. It seems he has burnt his bridges as far as Sophie is concerned and is most surprised when the lady in question turns up at his office. Sophie has reconsidered and is willing to continue the courtship…perhaps if they talk openly and really get to know each other, she might find she was wrong about them being ill-suited. So, Sophie invites Edward to spend Christmas at Appersett House in Derbyshire.

Sophie and Ned are such appealing characters and the Christmas festivities provide the perfect setting for their romance to flourish. Ned is a man who rarely shows his emotions but feels things deeply, which is evident in his reactions after Sophie calls off the courtship. I enjoyed seeing him slowly emerge from behind that stern appearance and reveal something of his real self to Sophie; the way he treats his parents with respect and shows kindness to her mother, and even to her spoilt sister, Emily; his patience and attentiveness; how, when he smiles, there was a sparkle in his eyes that made her catch her breath; how he surprises her by teasing and flirting!

”…unless you very strenuously object, I intend to kiss you this Christmas.”
Sophie stared at him, her mouth suddenly dry. It took all of her strength of will to compose herself. To moisten her lips and formulate words more substantial than a breathless squeak. “Under the mistletoe, I presume.”
“Under the mistletoe. Under the gaslight. Under the stars.” Ned bent his head close to hers. “Perhaps all three.”

I admire Sophie for her loyalty to her family, even though her profligate father and spoilt sister hardly deserve it. She has shouldered the responsibility for trying to keep the family from financial ruin and I love how Ned is willing to shoulder this burden for her, while he is in Derbyshire, with no strings attached and the freedom to choose what happens afterwards.

Sophie is intelligent, strong, gracious, warm and kind, qualities that Ned recognises and values, unlike her father, and I love how he views marriage as a partnership where they will be equals.

“A partner,” Sophie repeated. “Is that how you think of me?”
He made a soft sound of assent as he enfolded her back into his embrace. “Not very romantic, is it? But I don’t want you to feel powerless with me. I value your intelligence and your strength. I’d rather you stood at my side than in my shadow.”

This was a time of great change both socially and economically and I like how Ms. Matthews explores the theme of adaptation to change by referencing Darwin’s work, which Sophie and Ned discuss, and in comments Sophie makes to her sister.

“We’re part of the modern age,” Sophie tells her sister. “We must change along with it or be left behind in the dust.”

The author’s love for and knowledge of the Victorian era is perfectly reflected in the historical details, the social commentary, and how she captures the essence of a Victorian Christmas.

MY VERDICT: This is a lovely, entertaining and heart-warming novella and the perfect accompaniment to the festive season.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: KISSES

 

 

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Mimi Matthews Interview - Author picture

I’m delighted to welcome author of both historical non-fiction and Victorian Romance MIMI MATTHEWS to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.

I’m so happy to be here, Carol! I absolutely love your historical romance reviews.

~~~~~~~


R&R:

Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?

Mimi:
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I also attended college and law school here. It’s a beautiful place to live, close to both the ocean and the mountains, and filled with lots of scenic spots. I got my first horse when I was six and some of my best memories are of riding in the foothills of Mt. Diablo or through one of our regional parks. There were also lots of trips into San Francisco to shop and eat or to visit museums or the theatre.

Mimi Matthews Interview - Young Mimi Reading in the School Library
This is me when I was in elementary school. 


R&R
:
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?

Mimi:
As a general rule, I think I’m pretty easy-going. However, I can be quite adversarial if the occasion calls for it. I didn’t become a lawyer for nothing.


R&R
:
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?

Mimi:
Definitely sweet. I love sugary pastries, cakes, and candies. I’m especially partial to divinity and marzipan. One of my Siamese cats is even named Marzipan!

Mimi Matthews Interview -Marzipan in his bed
My Siamese cat, Marzipan.


R&R:

What is your most treasured possession?

Mimi:
I treasure my pets and my family above all things, but they’re not technically possessions. Among inanimate objects, I suppose it would be my jewellery. I have a lot of special vintage pieces, from the Victorian era through the 1930s. For a recent birthday, I got a gorgeous Edwardian ring with an 8-carat oval citrine surrounded in seed pearls. It’s almost too beautiful to wear. Almost!

Mimi Matthews Interview -Centelleo with head turned
My Andalusian dressage horse, Centelleo.

 

R&R:
If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?

Mimi:
I’m a total anglophile, so I’d have to say England. I would love to have a second home in the countryside with a stable, paddocks, and riding ring. Then again, since I wouldn’t ever want to leave any animals behind, this would mean hauling horses back and forth across the pond. Probably not very realistic.


R&R:
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?

Mimi:
Oh gosh, where to start? There have been so many—most from my childhood. Maybe things just seem more embarrassing when you’re a teenager? One moment that I can share comes from my lifelong desire to always be on time. My first semester of college, I arrived early for my first class. Or, at least, I thought I was early. Turns out, the class was already in session. I edged my way into the room, weaving through the students to find a vacant desk and generally making a spectacle of myself. No sooner had I taken my seat than the buzzer rang and everyone else in the class got up and left. It was then I realized, much to my mortification, that this wasn’t my class at all. It was the earlier class, which I had walked in on right as it was ending. Awkward!

~~~~~~~

Thank you for taking time out to be here today and sharing these interesting facts about yourself, Mimi.

Thank you for having me, Carol! It’s been a real pleasure.


If you would like to find out more about Mimi and her books, here are the links:

Website
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

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The Lost Letter

Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

England, 1860. An impoverished Victorian beauty is unexpectedly reunited with the now beastly earl who once broke her heart. Will they finally find their happily-ever-after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

A PROUD BEAUTY 
Society beauty Sylvia Stafford is far too pragmatic to pine. When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, she finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life–and her former love.

A SCARRED BEAST
Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia once fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited–and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.

A SECOND CHANCE
A week together in the remote Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily-ever-after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this tender, emotional and romantic debut novel from Mimi Matthews which features a second chance story, one of my favorite themes. 

Colonel Sebastian Conrad followed the career expected of all the second sons of the Earls of Radcliffe and became a soldier. Orderly, disciplined and rather serious, life as a career cavalry officer suited Sebastian perfectly. While on leave in London, he accepts an invitation to a musical evening where he is captivated by the lovely Sylvia Stafford.

With her genuine warmth and kindness, baronet’s daughter, Sylvia Stafford, is very popular and has attracted many suitors. However, it is the rather serious and aloof Colonel Conrad to whom she is attracted.

Over the next two months, they meet ‘by accident’ at various events and it is obvious that they have fallen in love. Sylvia anticipates that Sebastian will propose, especially when he asks for a lock of her hair and they kiss, but Sebastian does not propose, fearing rejection. The following night, he is ordered back to his regiment in India to assist in putting down a rebellion. When Sylvia’s numerous letters to Sebastian go unanswered and Sebastian’s letters to Sylvia are returned unopened, both feel hurt and betrayed by the other.

Three years have passed, and both have experienced dramatic changes in their lives. After Sylvia’s father, an inveterate gambler, lost everything on a hand of cards, he committed suicide and, because of the ensuing scandal, Sylvia’s remaining family and her society friends deserted her. Forced to fend for herself, she obtains a position as governess to a merchant family’s children. It has taken a long time to recover from the pain and hurt of Sebastian’s rejection but now she is happy and contented with her new life.

Terribly scarred and blind in one eye, Sebastian has returned to England to find that both his father and elder brother have died of fever and he is now the Earl of Radcliffe. In continual pain, he lives a lonely and isolated existence in his apartments at Pershing Hall with no interest in running the estate and totally disconnected from his former life. I can understand Sebastian’s reasons for wanting to hide himself away; even his own sister, Julia, screamed when she first saw his face and he fears his tenants’ reactions should they see him.

It was too easy to imagine their horrified reaction to the sight of his scarred face. Granted, he had known most of his father’s tenants since his youth, but mere familiarity was no guarantee that they would not respond to him with pity and disgust.

Julia, however, is determined to draw her brother out of his state of apathy and, when she sees the lock of hair he always keeps with him, she will leave no stone unturned to find its owner.  Having discovered her identity, Julia visits Sylvia and is not above telling a few white lies to persuade a very reluctant Sylvia to return to Pershing Hall as her guest for a few weeks.  It is Julia’s fervent hope that spending time together will rekindle the love that Sebastian and Sylvia once shared. Even though she fears the reception she might get, I admire Sylvia for her courage and compassion in agreeing to accompany Julia.

No matter how cruelly Sebastian had treated her in the past, he did not deserve to be suffering in such a dreadful manner. No one did. If her presence could alleviate even a fraction of his pain, she must go to him.

I like how Ms. Matthews creates a palpable tension between Sebastian and Sylvia in the library scene. Driven by his feelings of hurt, bitterness and anger for having been shunned in such a heartless way, Sebastian is cold and distant towards Sylvia. Knowing of her reduced circumstances, he believes the worst…that her motives are purely mercenary now that he is an earl. While Sylvia is sure that her father’s scandalous death and her bold first letter to Sebastian offended him, and they were the reasons for him not answering her letters.

It is obvious that they are still very much in love, but the past remains an ever-present obstacle until the truth concerning the letters finally comes to light. Someone had deliberately set out to mislead them into believing they had forgotten each other and I felt so much sympathy for Sylvia, knowing that this person had deceived her for their own selfish motives with no thought for her happiness. This is a turning point for them because they are now able to talk openly. I like how Sebastian apologizes for his previous cruel and uncivil behaviour and Sylvia is determined that Sebastian will no longer hide himself away in darkened libraries and shadowy portrait galleries. He is fearful that, seeing him in the light of day, will drive Sylvia away and I love the poignant scene that follows.

…then she set her fingertips very gently on the scar at the side of his eye. Her touch was warm and soft and heart-breakingly tender. He tried to concentrate on his breathing. An impossible task as she began to trace the path of his scar down his cheek.

The romance is beautifully written – sweet, tender and romantic, with only one passionate kissing scene, which fits the mood of the story perfectly.

As in all good romances, the course of true love doesn’t run completely smoothly when Sylvia misconstrues something Sebastian says. It takes the discovery of the ‘Lost Letter’ to put them back on track for a Happy Ever After. It is such a touching moment when Sebastian reads the letter, sealed with a thousand sweet kisses only for him and I love the scene when he finally responds to her letter in person. So romantic!

I like how the secondary characters play an important role in the story, especially Julia and Sebastian’s valet, Milsom. Julia maybe annoying at times and her methods rather questionable, but her heart is in the right place and it’s obvious that she loves her brother very much. I like the genuine affection between Sebastianand Milsom. Julia and Milsom’s various ploys to bring Sebastian and Sylvia together are amusing and provide some lighter moments in the story.

I like Ms. Matthews’ elegant writing style and the story has an authentic Victorian feel to it.

MY VERDICT: A beautifully written, emotionally satisfying, character driven love story. Highly recommended.


REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

**I received a complimentary copy from the author for the purposes of an honest review. ** 

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