The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews – Book Review
From the desk of Syrie James
Can a daring, independent-minded equestrian and a brilliant, half-Indian dressmaker overcome the pressures of fashionable society to find love and happiness in Victorian London? That’s the premise of Mimi Matthew’s new novel The Siren of Sussex, and I have to admit, I was so intrigued that I could hardly wait to dive in.
Evelyn Maltravers, a highly accomplished horsewoman, has come to London with a selfless plan: to make a match that will rescue her family from ruin. The only way to attract a suitor, she believes, is to make a favorable impression on horseback—an arena in which she is highly skilled. To accomplish that, she enlists the aid of Ahman Malik, a devastatingly handsome half-English, half-Indian tailor who designs the stunning riding habits worn by a popular group of ladies known as the Pretty Horsebreakers.
Evelyn and Ahmad are attracted to each other at first sight, feelings they both struggle to control through a series of intimate dress fittings that are scorchingly depicted via longing glances and lingering touches. Evelyn is torn between her duty to her family to marry well and her growing regard for Ahmad. A working-class man of color, Ahmad is in no financial situation to support Evelyn, and knows that society would never approve of a relationship between them—and his inner turmoil and desire to do what is best for Evelyn is painfully and lovingly expressed.
However, despite the new and increasingly complex obstacles that are thrown in the couple’s way, the depth of their growing mutual admiration creates a sweet and tender bond between them that neither can ignore. The novel sizzles with sexual tension, yet is a completely clean and proper read, with a swoonworthy hero, a feminist heroine you can’t help but root for, and a well-developed plot filled with rich historical detail.
The riding-habits and gowns that Ahmad creates are exquisitely described, highlighting his unique talents. The author’s passion for horses and expertise in the field of horseback riding add a great deal to the story. A subplot involving the Victorians’ obsession with the spiritual realm is intriguing and well-handled. I was dying to see how the author would wrap up the relationship between these two worthy individuals who had found their way into my heart. The ending was everything I hoped it would be—and more—with an unexpected and completely satisfying twist.
The novel is full of lovely, meaningful, and highly quotable sentiments. Here’s one of my favorites:
“But wonderful things didn’t happen because one was cautious. They happened because one dared.”
I’ve read and loved Matthews’s Parish Orphans of Devon series and it was a delight to see Ahmad (who was featured in A Modest Independence) get a book of his own. There are also appearances by several other characters from that book. The Siren of Sussex can absolutely be read as a standalone, but I recommend that you check out Matthews’s other books in that series as well.
Impeccably researched, brimming with passion and chemistry, and a loving tribute to Victorian fashion and horsemanship, The Siren of Sussex is a page-turning, powerful, and endearing love story about two people rising above the pressures of society to follow their hearts.
A five-star fantastic read!
- Title: The Siren of Sussex: Belles of London (Book 1)
- Author: Mimi Matthews
- Genre: Historical Romance, Historical Fiction
- Publisher: Berkley Romance (January 11, 2022)
- Length: (432) pages
- Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook
PURCHASE LINKS available at Mimi’s website.
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.
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