[The Siren of Sussex]: An ARC Review

Happy back to school, my friends!

Whether you’ve started a new school year or it’s coming up, I wish you a smooth transition and a great back to school! We are in the midst of our transition and it’s both hard and exciting.

I am so excited to share my review of The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews. This is the first book in her new Belles of London series and it is an absolute fantastic debut for the series! I was blown away by this novel and devoured it as quickly as I could. Such a beautiful romance and fascinating story!

My first experience reading a novel by Mimi Matthews was in late 2020 when I was part of the blog tour of her novel Gentleman Jim. I was so excited to read another of her novels and this one was a delight!

I received a complimentary ebook of this novel from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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Book Summary: “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.

But pushing boundaries comes at a cost and not everyone is pleased to welcome Evelyn and Ahmad into fashionable society. With obstacles spanning between them, the indomitable pair must decide which hurdles they can jump and what matters most: making their mark or following their hearts?”

Evelyn or Evie is a fantastic protagonist. She is a lovely blend of courageous and timid, charitable and selfish, passionate and patient. I loved her changing view of the world and of herself. Her journey to find happiness and stability is a beautiful one. I enjoyed her budding friendships with other young ladies (who I believe we get to know better in future novels in the series!) And I admired her love and duty to her sisters. Evie is not a typical London debutante but she is absolutely a fascinating and likable one! From her initial plans to wow the Ton on horseback to her changing feelings for Mr Malik, I loved seeing her fight for what was most important to her. Easily a favorite part of the story was her relationship and passionate romance with Mr Ahmad Malik.

Ahmad is a surprising and equally fascinating character. His is a unique circumstance and a difficult journey to find stability and acceptance. I found the details about his work as a dressmaker and habit maker fascinating. How he selects colors for different clients, the way the fabric moves and sits on different women, and the way he uses dresses to showcase the natural beauty of his clients rather than covering them with flounces and unnecessary ruffles or jewels. His obvious skill was fascinating to learn about. I also loved his clear attraction to Evie and how they build a partnership and friendship that becomes a beautiful, unique love story.

Evie and Ahmad’s love story is passionate and intense while also sweet and tender. From their first encounter, you can sense their attraction to each other. Their slow burning romance is so beautiful and exciting. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as I read about each of their interactions, their first almost accidental kiss, their declarations for each other, and their first waltz. It seems impossible that they can be together yet somehow the ending is as satisfying and beautiful as I hoped it would be. It has been a while since I was so invested in a romance and I found Evie and Ahmad’s to be exciting, hopeful, and the perfect blend of difficult and passionate.

The historical setting is both familiar and unique. Victorian England is a favorite setting of mine and I loved the historical details that felt familiar and cozy. Yet Matthews also distinguishes her novel with several new details like the spiritualism movement with the seances and the mood of the country following Prince Albert’s death. As well as life for part Indian people during this time. I have read a few novels with connections or settings in England but this was the first with a man of Indian descent living in London. I was as intrigued as Evie by the details of the imperialist wars and occupation, especially the way it was described at the time. Bravo, Matthews on her detailed research!

I was captivated by this novel and am eager to read more of these books! Matthews writes swoon worthy romance that make her readers’ breathe come in bursts and heart beats race. Yet overall, she kept the romance closed door which was appreciated. Her characters are complex and so easy to connect with. From the first few chapters, I was so invested in the story that I hardly wanted to do anything else. And for me, those are the best kind of stories.

Looking forward to more in this series!

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Have you read any Victorian England set novels? Which are your favorites?
What series have you devoured in only a few days?

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 Weekly, 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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