RogerBW's Blog

The Matrimonial Advertisement, Mimi Matthews 07 June 2023

2018 Victorian romance. Helena is desperate to escape from her family; Justin is a scarred ex-soldier living in isolation in Devon and has advertised for a wife…

As with The Siren of Sussex there's a sense of fun here. It's a dual viewpoint, and both characters have secrets, so there's a certain amount of hedging about the truth in early chapters; but once the situation starts to become clear, there's a serious story of the position of women in the 1850s. (And I didn't spot any glaring historical errors, though I was carried along by the story enough that I wasn't looking for them.)

At the same time we get a pleasingly Gothic setting in rural Devon, love at first sight but enough genuine doubts that I found I could believe in the sudden abandonment that produces a little final-act tension (even if it could be solved with an honest conversation), and a properly wicked uncle.

I preferred the earlier gothic-Devon parts to the later London parts, perhaps because I've read a lot of romances set in long-19th-century London and rather fewer with convincing rural settings – and because in London our principals don't really do much, relying largely on being seen and the machinations of others. I understand that Matthews wants to tie this plot to a particular historical newspaper article, but while I won't deny Helena's courage in relating things she's suffered for the public to be shocked by, I prefer my protagonists to be a bit more active as the architects of their own success.

Probably best read all in one go, so that the strong first half can carry you over the weaknesses of the second.

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Series: Parish Orphans of Devon | Next in series: A Modest Independence

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