From the publisher: A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.
I’ve read all of the novels by Mimi Matthews, and this is one of her best. If you are already familiar with her work, this book is reminiscent of The Matrimonial Advertisement. It also reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, and I was pleased to read in the Author’s Note that this was intentional. This is very much a Victorian romance fairy tale. It’s got echoes of the stories of Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard.
Julia Wynchwood has a reputation in society as a sickly spinster, left on the matrimonial shelf after several seasons. It is in fact her parents who are sickly, and unknown to her, her father has turned away all her suitors because they did not live close enough for Julia to devote her life to caring for her selfish parents. Captain Jasper Blunt, badly scarred from battle, has a reputation as both a war hero and a cruel man with a houseful of bastard children born to him by his dead mistress. She needs escape from her parents. He needs a wife with money to repair his remote decrepit mansion and to help him raise the bastard children.
But of course, all is not as it seems on the surface. There is a lot more to both Julia and Jasper than society knows. Julia sees something in him that offers protection from her parents; she proposes marriage and off they hie to the remote mansion. The author is not coy about the surprises that await the reader. She drops a lot of clues and hints that ratchet up the interest rather than spoiling the plot.
I really love sitting down to a new book by Matthews. Her love of horses and stories shines through every novel she writes. Her character Jasper says:
“Stories like the ones we read in novels help us understand the human condition. … They teach us empathy. In that way, they’re more than an escape from the world. They’re an aid for living in the world. For being better, more compassionate people.” (ch. 24 of the advance reader copy)
I read an advance reader copy of The Belle of Belgrave Square from Netgalley.
It is scheduled to be published on October 11, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it. The Belle of Belgrave Square is the second book in the author’s Belles of London series, and the library already owns the first, The Siren of Sussex, in regular and large print and as an ebook.