Happy Friday everybody! You know that on Fridays, ready for some weekend relaxation, I love to share reading and watching recommendations, and today I have the pleasure of hosting a virtual book tour on my blog! (So a little bit more exciting than my random recommendations!)
I am excited to share with you my review of Mimi Matthews’ book The Siren of Sussex, which is Book One in her new Belles of London series. Berkley Romance Publishers were kind enough to gift me a copy and include me on the book tour, so thank you very much! It’s always exciting to share a new read with you (it was only published on January 11th!), and this one certainly did not disappoint.
The Siren of Sussex follows the independent equestrienne Evelyn Maltravers through Victorian high society. Set in the months following the death of Prince Albert in December 1861, Evelyn is a country girl sent to London for the season, with her family keen for her to make some kind of marriage match after her older sister was involved in a terrible scandal.
Yet, Evelyn knows people stare at her and don’t think she’s worth much in the marriage market. So instead, she decides to use her best skills to show her true worth: in horse riding. Knowing she must look her best in order to do so, she goes to find the best habit-maker she can. Little does she know that the tailor she chooses, Ahmad Malik, will be everything she dreams of in a man…
I finished this novel in two sittings because I was so pulled in to Evelyn and Ahmad’s world by Matthews’ storytelling. Everything was impeccably researched (I particularly enjoyed the author’s notes at the back of the book that explained some of the real histories she was inspired by whilst writing the novel), managing to weave together equestrianship, a period of national mourning, spiritualism, racial and gender discrimination, dressmaking and the effects of British colonialism in India.
I found our heroine, Evelyn, and our hero, Ahmad, really endearing. Matthews has created really great characters that have so many sides to them, which I think was what kept me reading. Evelyn’s circle of friends, and Ahmad’s family and close-knit connections, don’t only provide a backdrop to the central romance, which is so will-they won’t-they, but have parts to play in their own right.
I was pleased to see this is the first book in a series, and I hope to see Matthews follow up Evelyn’s story with those of her friends (I particularly loved the sweet grey-haired Stella).
And of course, what is not to love about a book that recognises the importance of pockets in clothing:
“Love!” Lady Arundell scoffed.
“How can that possibly be?”
“He sewed pockets in all of her skirts,” Anne said.
“Pockets.” Julia sighed. “Imagine.”
“And she didn’t even have to ask him to do it,” Stella said.
The Siren of Sussex was eye-opening, thought-provoking and fascinating, all at the same time, and I really enjoyed it. Confession time: I actually haven’t read much historical fiction recently. I’d been struggling to get into anything, but I found this such a readable and interesting book, I think I’ll be getting back into my historical fiction (and of course, romance) pile that I’ve managed to accumulate.
You can find The Siren of Sussex at all your favourite book shop now!
Thank you to Berkley Romance and Austen Prose for including me on this virtual book tour.