Author: Mimi Matthews
Due to be Published by Perfectly Proper Press on 14th July
Category: Victorian Romance, Book Review
After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.
As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.
It’s a long time since I read a Victorian romance so this proved to be a nice change. The story opens as Beryl Burnham and her Aunt Hortensia arrive home after spending the past year in Paris. The reason for the trip isn’t revealed until later in the story and creates much empathy for Beryl. The first thing Beryl does on reaching Shepton Worthy is to pay her respects to the curate, Mark Rivenhall, when she notices the church doors are open, signalling Mark was there. He was soon to become her brother-in-law as Beryl was betrothed to Sir Henry Rivenhall.
Beryl was putting off going home and resuming her life. Somehow her restlessness and inability to fully embrace the happiness she believes she should feel, but can’t quite seem to grasp, overshadows everything else. She doesn’t understand why she feels this way but her friendship with Mark and his sympathetic awareness and sensitivity helps.
Mark had a knack for lifting her spirits. For making her smile, whether in person, or through the many letters he’d written to her during her absence.
Mimi Matthews explores the topic of ‘melancholy’ and the shocking way it was dealt with in Victorian times. Unusual as it is to have the heroine of a period romance suffering from what amounts to clinical depression and anxiety, it gives the story a deeper dimension and a different slant and brings into focus what was a taboo subject.
It’s very easy to feel empathy with Beryl as she struggles with low spirits while trying to hide how she feels from others. Henry is too pragmatic, sometimes patronising and aloof, which doesn’t invite confidences of any kind. Not the type of person to waste much time on sympathy. Being able to talk to Mark is a huge relief for Beryl. I can understand how the restrictions placed on the women of the time could have a detrimental effect, not that that would apply to Beryl’s spirited sister, Winnie.
Although it’s clear from the start Mark has strong feelings for Beryl which are reciprocated, neither acknowledge the fact due to the fact Beryl is betrothed. Mark, a man of honour, doesn’t want to betray his brother and treats Beryl with compassion and respect.
The journey to the conclusion makes for a satisfying read. The characters are well defined and one in particular redeems themselves towards the end. Mark’s friend, the forward thinking Dr Simon Black, and Winnie are both interesting and would make good protagonists if, as the title suggests, there are to be more books. A lovely, easy to read story, well written with a serious theme. I’ll have to check out more of this author’s books.
I chose to read and review Fair as a Star for Rosie Amber’s book review team, based on a digital copy kindly supplied by the author.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, 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.