The Siren of Sussex. (Belles of London #1) Mimi Matthews. 2022. [January] 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Evelyn Maltravers entered the dimly lit shop in Conduit Street.
Premise/plot: Evelyn Maltravers has come to London for her one and only season. Her older sister had a season that ended in scandal. Until her own season began, Evelyn never really understood how that could happen--how one could find oneself falling truly, madly, deeply for someone that you are "not supposed to" live your happily ever after with. In her sister's case, it was a man too high above her station. In her own case, well, let's not jump ahead just yet...
Evelyn is depending on a HABIT (a riding habit) to help distinguish her this season. She feels she is at her absolute best while riding her horse. Ahmad Malik, a tailor, is THE ONE (in her opinion) to make that habit. He seems to have a perfect understanding of fashion (and function). In their first few meetings, she is overwhelmed with a warm and fuzzy feeling. If she was Disney's Cinderella, she'd be HUMMING. He seems to be dazzled with her as well, though, he seems to see her as his perfect muse. He hatches a plan for her season as well. He'll design EVERYTHING and she'll show it off wherever she goes. (She doesn't so much want to be noticed for her own sake, her own plans. She only wants to be noticed by HIM. Though the more people notice her and talk about her clothes, the more business he'll get for the shop).
But happily ever after won't be easy and straight forward. Technically, she's looking for a (relatively) wealthy gentleman. Technically, he's not looking to marry any woman. He does not own his own shop; his income is uncertain at best. It depends on IF his customers ever pay him. Some do. Some don't. And there's not much he can do to make them pay. (Remember, the bill comes later.) And then there's his race...he's half Indian. He doesn't feel comfortable in white circles or Indian circles. He doesn't "fit" in either. And no matter what he says--his race, his socioeconomic class--she sees her ultimate dream man.
My thoughts: I read the second book in this series not so long ago. Evelyn is one of a group of friends who love, love, love, love riding horses. All are enjoying--or not enjoying--their London season. All are hoping to find their one true love. I have a feeling that the friends will make appearances in all the books. Friendship is important in this one. It isn't just a romance.
The romance is told from two points of view--his and hers, Evelyn's and Ahmad's. The romance is strong in this one. I think this may be my first interracial Victorian romance. I thought it was tastefully and realistically done. There were a few scenes that I thought might be a little too modern-sounding. Like Evelyn explaining to her friends that it was her responsibility not only to become (more) educated but to educate herself about Indian history and culture. She was hesitant to talk to him and ask him questions because it wasn't his job to "teach her."
My least favorite aspect of this one was the focus on spiritualism. Evelyn herself isn't a spiritualist. BUT her uncle (who is her guardian and who is paying for her season) is a spiritualist. Her official sponsor (a woman friend of her uncle's) IS also a spiritualist. So almost all of her invitations are from the spiritualist crowd and involve spiritualist activities (crystal balls, seances, mediums, astrologists, etc.) I just didn't care for any of these scenes at all. Spiritualism may have been super popular at this time in history. The idea of communing with the dead, having FAMILIAR SPIRIT GUIDES, etc, may be right on track with what was trending at this time. But it didn't sit right with me. Again, I'm not saying that YOU will have an issue with it. Just sharing how I feel.
I would not say it is necessarily squeaky clean--far from it. On the one hand, the intimacies are not told graphically. There is some restraint shown. On the other hand, there's no denying the physical intimacies that are occurring even if the book is mostly fade to black. So it depends on what bothers you--if anything--about adult "smutty" books.
I liked this one but not as much as I did the second book which I crazy loved.
© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews