RogerBW's Blog

The Winter Companion, Mimi Matthews 01 September 2023

2020 Victorian romance. Neville Cross has always got on with animals better than with people, particularly since the injury that made it hard for him to speak. Clara Hartwright is a lady's companion with unconventional plans for the future. Will they turn a brief acquaintance during a Christmas visit into something more?

Yes, of course they will. This is a romance. But as always the question is how we'll get to the predestined ending and what else will happen. This is the Victorian age, so Neville's disability readily leads to most people dismissing him as stupid and useless – and indeed his growth here takes him out of the safe and accepting space he's found for himself and out into a world that he reasonably expects to dismiss him. More seriously, even people sympathetic towards him are prone to see him as an overgrown adolescent…

Meanwhile Clara has taken on an elderly pug, who of course needs special care, and guess who's the guy who ends up dealing with all the animals…

I enjoyed the intertwining stories, but I never found myself entirely caught up in the romance; what should have been visceral and emotional engagement ended up coming over as something rather flatter. Matthews doesn't insert the bedroom scenes that many romance writers do, and I wonder whether in removing all that she's also dialled back the actual love a little too far. There's emotion here, desperation, relief, but always for me at a slight distance.

Good fun nonetheless and I'll read more by Matthews.

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