books

Mimi Matthews

Books

The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter (2018), The Work of Art (2019)

Parish Orphans of Devon: The Matrimonial Advertisement (2018), A Modest Independence (2019), A Convenient Fiction (2019)


The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter (2018)

Set in England in 1861.

Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton is a rake bored with his life. Valentine March is a vicar’s daughter, left on her own after the death of her father. When Tristan finds Valentine weeping in the Folly at a house party, he wants to walk away, but discovers not one of the ladies he expected to see but instead a young, ill-dressed ladies companion.

This is a non-boinking book, which I appreciated. It’s also rather short, so be aware of that.

What I particularly liked is that Tristan has to overcome his past. That’s unusual for that time, when it was acceptable for a man to have mistresses, but if a young woman was found alone with a man she was ruined.

I also liked that although Tristan had a terrible reputation, he hadn’t actually been living down to that reputation in the year prior to that book. So Valentine didn’t save him, she just pulled him out of himself.

Also:

What must, under better circumstances, be a rather enviable porcelain complexion was splotchy with weeping and her perfectly proportioned little nose shone red as a beacon.

I also liked that although Tristan was at odds with his father, his father had grounds for being unhappy, and was complex in his own right.

This was a man who’d buried a much-beloved wife. A man who’d seen his youngest son return from fighting in the Crimea, damaged almost beyond repair.

And as I said, he was pretty right about Tristan.

All the things his father had said to him during that excruciating lecture in the library last night were true. His manners were execrable. His language did belong in the gutter. And he had handled Valentine March like a tavern doxy instead of a gently bred vicar’s daughter.

The negative about this story was that the main characters fell in love almost instantly, and never truly got to know each other before their HEA. They did get to know their own selves, but I think they needed more time with each other before I’d really believe a HEA.

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Rating: 6.5/10


Parish Orphans of Devon


The Matrimonial Advertisement (2018) 

Set in England in 1859.

Helena Reynolds has fled London. She’s in Devon responding to a matrimonial advertisement, but if this doesn’t work, she return to London.

Justin Thornhill was a captain in the British army who served in India, and returned home physically scarred. Raised in an orphanage, he has done everything possible to secure the dreams he had as a child, for himself and for his friends, but he is lonely and alone, and coerced into filing a matrimonial advertisement. He wants a solid spinster–he gets Helena.

Both Helena and Justin have secrets, and each feels that once other discovers those secrets are brought to light, what they have cobbled together will evaporate. They’re both broken in complicated ways.

“I dislike suffering for no purpose. Pain and sacrifice should come to something in the end. It should have meaning.”

Helena nodded slowly, her expression thoughtful. “Yes, it should. But I’m not convinced it ever does. Not really.”

Yet still care deeply about those around them.

She gave him a long, searching look. “Is that why we loathe the place?”

We.

Justin’s chest expanded on an almost painful surge of emotion. He couldn’t tell if it was relief or— worse— if it was gratitude. All she’d said was we. It was hardly a declaration of undying affection, but to him, in that moment, it was everything. “Yes. That’s the reason.”

And Justin is a good person, even if he’s cold and brusque and tries to force people away.

“I owe you everything, Justin.”

He frowned. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “No. That isn’t how any of this works. It isn’t a tabulation of debts and repayments.”

What I found both fascinating and horrifying was how that bad guy of the piece continued to believe that the world owed him–Helena owed him. He refuses to see that he has done anything wrong.

It’s awful, yet it rings unpleasantly true every time he attempts to justify his actions.

This story does go into some dark places, all of which are based on incidents of the time.

The editorial that Mr. Pelham writes for the fictional London Courant is a paraphrased version of an actual editorial which ran in The London Times on August 19, 1858. It addressed abuses in private asylums and revealed, among other disturbing facts, just how often sane people were committed by greedy relatives who were trying to gain control of their money.

Which really makes them all the darker and more horrifying.

But it’s a good story, and I enjoyed it, and I ordered the next in the series, due out next month.

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Rating: 7.5/10

A Modest Independence (2019) 

Set in England, Egypt, and India in 1860

Solicitor Tom Finchley has worked his way up from nothing. He craves security, which is why he puts up with a job that often leaves him feeling uncomfortable, since the men he represents aren’t always good people.

Jenny Holloway became a companion for her cousin, to escape her life in a small town, where she was expected to look after her alcoholic father (since she hadn’t married). After her cousin’s marriage, she has received a modest independence, and plans to spend her life traveling, to escape the rules and strictures of society.

“Come. You can’t expect me to believe that you’ve never dreamed of marrying and having a family.”

“And giving up all of my rights? Not only over my money and property, but over my body? No thank you.”

At the end of the previous book, Jenny remained angry with Tom, who didn’t tell her the whole truth about his best friend (and client’s) history and plans. But Justin and Lady Helena know that they care about each other, and so force them to deal with each other.

Because of his history, Tom trusts almost no one.

Even Justin, his best friend and the closest thing he had to a brother, was not privy to all of his secrets. Tom didn’t wish to burden him— or disappoint him.

He also lives his life in a way so as to keep himself secure financially, which keeps him safe in body, but has left him lonely, all but married to his job.

“When a boy spends his childhood never knowing from one day to the next whether he’ll have food to eat or a roof over his head, the prospect of steady work and dependable wages is something to dream about.

Not that Jenny is quick to trust either.

I have only your best interest at heart, you know.”

“Said every man to every woman since the beginning of time.”

Tom and Jenny go to India, to search for Helena’s brother, who was believed killed during an uprising.

This story attempts to be historically accurate, which means that there is a LOT of racism and other awfulness by the British towards the “natives”.

“I don’t believe,” he said, “that one can accurately be called a savage if one is inhabiting one’s own country.”

Mrs. Plank’s smile turned thin. “It is not their country, sir. It is ours.

Aside from the casual racism (historically accurate, as she notes) this is a sweet story, and there is NO BOINKING. It’s a romance, so of course Jenny and Tom are going to end up together, but their desires and needs were so far apart, I didn’t see how they could have their HEAs without having to give up some important part of themselves.

This was actually a concern for me as I was reading, because both of them had beliefs based upon their needs: Tom’s need for financial security and Jenny’s need to see the world and not lose her rights and independence. And they both needed to learn to trust.

The ending reads as if there will be another book in the series, but it was a perfectly satisfactory ending, and if I didn’t get another book, I’d be fine with it.

So an enjoyable story, with lovely characters, and although there was drama, it wasn’t ridiculous drama.

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Rating: 8/10

A Convenient Fiction (2019)

Set in England in 1860

Laura Hayes father died three years earlier of the same fever that crippled her brother and left her weakened but also in charge of her family–but with few resources to do so, since their properties were left to be managed by a lawyer–one who has been pushing Laura to sell the lands and properties.

Alex Archer fled England for the continent years ago, and spent his time learning how to become a card sharp and a scoundrel. Now he is using those skills to try and find a landed bride, an the stability he lacked growing up in an orphanage.

I very much enjoyed the first two books in this series. Helena and Justin were complex and complicated, and we got to know both Tom and Jenny in the first book and wanted things to work out for them. In this book, Laura and Alex are new, and Alex in particular is a cypher. We’re told his a chameleon, but I had a hard time really feeling for him, mostly because he’s quest didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. He’s a fortune hunter in search of land and property, but he already has to money to purchase those things.

“Land is the only thing that gives a man a sense of connection. Of meaning. Unless he has it, he never truly belongs anywhere.”

“Is that what you’re searching for? A sense of belonging?”

A lump formed in his throat. She made it sound so simple. As if he might have found it anywhere. “I suppose I am.”

Something in her expression softened. “You don’t want land, Alex. What you’re looking for is a family.”

Great. That’s precisely what he wants! Except he doesn’t really see it.

Also, he doesn’t really make it clear to Laura that he doesn’t need a fortune, that he has enough. We’re supposed to believe he’s a fortune hunter, but in the second part of the book he seems to have plenty of money. Sure, he doesn’t have the antecedents for society, but that’s not really what he wants.

Laura as a little more clear to me. She was struggling to keep her family together and would do anything for her brother and aunt. A little more complicated was her friend Hen, who for most of the book didn’t act at all like a friend. Except at the very end.

I had the feeling that the author didn’t quite know what to do with Alex–how to redeem him from his past. Hen ended up being a far worse person than Alex. Possibly it’s because she hadn’t spent any time with either character to develop them the way Justin and Tom and Helena and Jenny were.

I’m hoping the fourth book is stronger. Especially since the hero is the most damaged of the four men.

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Rating: 6/10


The Work of Art (2019) 

Set in England in 1814

Phyllida Satterthwaite lived with her grandparents until their death, at which point she was taken to London to live with her uncle, who Had Plans For Her.

both of her cousins immediately perked up, as if they expected Philly to receive the harshest reproof.

Captain Arthur Heywood is a second son who was seriously wounded and has spent the past several years recovering in solitude. He is sent by his father into London to conduct some business, and it is there he meets Philly.

I actually had difficulty starting this story, because I was worried that Uncle Edgar’s plans for Philly would actually take place, and I did not want to read that story. Luckily, Arthur rescues Philly, and the heart of the story is their coming to know each other–and discover just who is behind the threats to Philly.

One of the things I particularly liked about this story was 1) that both characters talked to each other, and 2) that neither’s concerns were overblown. Arthur truly believed that he could accidentally kill Philly, because of what had happened to him during the war, and once he explained this to her, she understood his fears and tried not to make things more difficult for him.

Philly went very still in his arms. “That’s why you were so certain that you might have killed me? Because of what you did to this other man?”

Arthur felt a sinking sensation in his stomach as he looked down at her. “I’ve frightened you.”

“Yes. Perhaps a little. I didn’t believe you when you said you could have harmed me. I thought you were merely distraught. But now…” She was trembling.

Generally in romances, in situations like that, the man is overly worried and the women isn’t worried at all. This story makes it clear that Arthur’s fears were justified, but also that Philly wasn’t wrong to trust him.

And for pure amusement:

“I say, ma’am. ’Tis not safe!” Greene trotted up to join her, his words coming out in gasps as if it were he, and not his horse, who had just ascended the hill. “Uneven ground hereabouts… poachers… sheep!”

This wasn’t completely unreasonable, but it is still funny.

It was a very lovely story, and I quite liked the way the bit of mystery turned out–I hadn’t seen the ending coming at all.

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Rating: 7.5/10