Blog Blitz: The Siren of Sussex

Hello, all! I hope you are settling into the new year. Have you made any bookish goals? Do you have a list for your TBR? I was blessed to be asked to read and review several great books for the month of January. One I am excited to share with you today is The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews. A special thank-you to the publisher, Berkley, for my copy of this story.

About the Book:

Releases January 11th, 2022

USA Today bestselling historical romance writer Mimi Matthews makes her Berkley debut with a boldly feminist tale about a daring equestrienne in her quest for independence just as the birth of haute couture takes the echelons of Victorian society by storm.

Matthews’ novel is inspired by the real-life Pretty Horsebreakers, a scandalous group of equestriennes and infamous courtesans at the forefront of fashion trends in Victorian London who defied the rules of polite society, and Charles Worth, the father of haute couture. THE SIREN OF SUSSEX (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; January 11, 2022) introduces Evelyn Maltravers, an incurable bluestocking determined to make her first and only season in London a roaring success.

Evelyn Maltravers is not exactly the woman who comes to mind when picturing a distinguished lady of the ton. More suited to riding than dancing, and much more opinionated than a young lady ought to be, her chances of securing a successful match have always been slim. But after her eldest sister is embroiled in scandal, that is exactly what she must do. Freshly arrived in London, Evelyn has one season to secure a husband and ensure both her own future and that of her four younger sisters. While Evelyn knows she will never dazzle the ton in a ballroom, there is one place where she has the advantage over all the ladies of polite society—on horseback in Rotten Row. But if she is to rival the alluring beauty of the Pretty Horsebreakers, she will need a tailor unafraid to take risks to make her the most fashionable equestrienne of the ton.

Evelyn turns to half-Indian dressmaker Ahmad Malik, who has a unique talent for bringing out his clients’ best features. Despite the inherent barriers he faces to becoming part of high society, Ahmad is working toward owning his own shop by designing the eye-catching habits of the Pretty Horsebreakers. Evelyn is convinced that Ahmad is the only person who can make her debut at Rotten Row a success. Ahmad knows that Evelyn, a fierce and confident woman on horseback, is the perfect muse, and an alluring subject to display his designs to the ton, if only he can set aside the intense attraction he feels for her.

With both their futures at stake, Ahmad will have to turn the diamond in the rough into the diamond of the season—while they both strive not to lose their hearts in the process.

Mimi Matthews delivers an enthralling romance while exploring themes of race, class, and the lingering effects of British colonialism. Drawing from her own Indian heritage and experience as an avid horse rider, Matthews brings to life Ahmad and Evelyn, two outsiders who change the course of Victorian society.

Purchase your copy at your favorite retailer: Amazon Barnes & Noble Google Play Apple Books

My Review

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews is an exhilarating ride through a Victorian London social season from a unique and refreshing perspective. The story of Evelyn Maltravers and her daring, unconventional approach to finding a husband immediately stole my attention. I loved her boldness and her strength, despite her many self-perceived weaknesses.

Ahmad Malik is incredibly interesting in so, so many ways. Handsome, talented, and an exquisite gentleman, he is a dark and brooding hero. I LOVED learning more about the fashion of the time, especially the riding habits. And it was interesting learning about his heritage and the struggles he (and so many others) faced.

Together, Evelyn and Ahmad form a daring, innovative partnership. The energy between them was electrifying, their friendship genuine, and their faith in each other encouraging. I adored them together and cheered them on as they reached for their greatest desires.

Overall, I loved this story. I was addicted to each page and was thrilled with the unique characters. They were characters that lived on the fringe of fashionable society or society in general but still had the courage to dream big dreams and chase them with all their hearts.

Fans of historical fiction/historical romance, especially Victorian-era, will enjoy this story. 

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher with no expectations of a positive review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Photo credit: Berkley Jove (TR)

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library JournalPublishers WeeklyBooklist, 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, and two Siamese cats. Learn more online at mimimatthews.com.

Excerpt from The Siren of Sussex:

A surge of disappointment dimmed Evelyn’s smile. It occurred to her, quite suddenly, how little she knew about him.

Of course, he must have a sweetheart. Heaven’s sake, he was probably married! Just because he didn’t wear a wedding band didn’t mean he didn’t have a wife—and probably several children besides. It was none of her affair.

She turned back to the shelves. “In that case . . . What about a romance?”

“No romances,” he said darkly.

“No?” Was he one of those stuffy men who disapproved of romance novels? Many did. Even so, she’d expected better of him. A man who designed clothing so beautifully shouldn’t be averse to sentiment. “What about this one, then? Silas Marner. It only came out last year.”

Mr. Malik drew it from the shelf. It was bound in brown cloth with gilt lettering on the spine. “What’s it about?”

“An individual and his place in society. The hero of the story is a weaver. A man with no family to speak of, who keeps himself apart from his community.”

“A bit too close to home.” He returned the book to the shelf. “She needs something bright. Something to boost her spirits.”

Evelyn wondered why. Was she ill? Melancholic? Had she had some sort of disappointment? “In that case”—she reached for a Jane Austen novel—“I recommend this one.”

He took it from her, giving the title a dubious glance. “Northanger Abbey.”

“It’s Miss Austen’s satire of a Gothic novel. A vastly entertaining read. It should take her mind off whatever it is that’s troubling her.”

Mr. Malik thumbed through the pages. His expression was doubtful.

“I confess,” she said “there is a romance in the story, but it’s witty rather than mawkish. I can’t imagine she won’t enjoy it.”

“It’s still a romance.”

A cough sounded nearby, along with the thump of books being shoved back on a shelf. It was a reminder that she and Mr. Malik weren’t alone. Far from it. The shop seemed to be growing busier.

Evelyn sunk her voice. “What does she have against romance?”

“Nothing,” he replied, his tone equally low. “I just don’t want her to get any ideas.”

“Ideas about what?”

“About happily-ever-afters.”

The wide swell of Evelyn’s skirts brushed his leg. She belatedly realized that she’d drawn closer to him. That their conversation had taken on an air of intimacy. “You object to them?”

“I don’t believe in fairy tales,” he said.

She gave him an amused look. “Is that what they are?”

“In my experience.”

“How illuminating.”

“Is it?” He turned another page.

“Indeed. You’re a cynic, Mr. Malik. I wouldn’t have thought it.”

“I’m a realist.”

“Happily-ever-afters are real. For some people, at least. And even if they weren’t . . . A little romance never hurt anyone.”

His eyes lifted to hers. There was an expression in them that was hard to read. “You think not?”

Butterflies unfurled their wings in her stomach. The same feeling she’d had when she’d first touched his hand. A fluttering, breathless sensation. As if her corset had been laced too tightly. “No,” she said. And then she thought of Fenny. “Not in a novel, anyway.”

His mouth curled into the barest hint of a smile.

Once again, she had the unsettling sensation that he could read her mind. She took a step back from him. “Forgive me, but I mustn’t linger. My maid is waiting for me.”

He closed the book, clutching it in his hand. “Thank you for your help.”

“It was my pleasure. I hope your . . .” Wife? Sweetheart? “I hope she enjoys the story.”

“My cousin.”

Evelyn nearly stumbled in the process of taking another step backward. “I beg your pardon?”

“The book is for my cousin.”

His words penetrated before she could school her features. She was certain an expression of relief passed over her face.

She was equally certain that he saw it.

Heaven only knew what he must think.

“Your cousin. Well, that’s . . . that’s splendid.” Splendid? Evelyn’s eyes closed against a swell of embarrassment. She was quite ready to disappear into a hole in the earth. She took another step back. “Please convey my regards.”

His smile broadened. “I shall.”

From THE SIREN OF SUSSEX published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Mimi Matthews.

This little happenstance meeting in a book shop (so romantic!) was a favorite scene. It was fun to see Evelyn thrown off balance a bit since she is usually so sure of herself. I hope you enjoy reading The Siren of Sussex as much as I did. Mimi Matthews has become a Victorian-era favorite!

Happy reading and God bless,

Kristina

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