I’m very excited to be sharing my review today of Mimi Matthews’ The Siren of Sussex, the first in her Belles of London series and her first traditionally published novel. It also happens to be release day for this Victorian romance!
Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.
Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.
Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.
The Siren of Sussex is a romance with resilient characters, swoony chemistry, and a historical setting that features equestriennes and the Victorians’ obsession with the spiritual realm.
A thoughtful look at race and colonialism through the eyes of the half-British, half-Indian (and fully attractive) hero, Ahmad, adds further depth to the complications of the love story and a subtle assessment of the roles of gentlemen vs the working class. Evelyn, the heroine, possesses a determination to better her prospects in a selfless move to support her family which endears her to Ahmad and the reader instantly. Wholly feminine and untried, she shirks the label of bluestocking and instead embraces the complexities of her person even as she embodies a progressively feministic view of her role and the capabilities of others.
The slow-burn romance is born of friendship and a partnership to display Ahmad’s fabric artistry – a situation which allows for some wonderfully romantic moments with fittings and one quite swoony gesture involving a pocket. Like Matthews’ beloved characters often exhibit, the best part of the romance is when the leads realize, as recipients of the others’ affections and respect, their place of belonging and acceptance is finally found.
Thank you to the publisher for the early review copy. This is my honest review.