The Siren of Sussex (Belles of London, # 1)
By: Mimi Matthews
Expected Publication: January 11th 2022 by Berkley
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--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?
Do you ever read a book and just can't put your finger on what's bothering you about it? I found myself frequently wanting to put down The Siren of Sussex. And it was troubling me because I usually enjoy Mimi Matthew's books very much. I realized that I felt embarrassed for the characters. I don't really know why I felt embarrassed for them. I never did really figure out why. They were awkward together. And although they did have interactions beyond dress fittings, I found that their relationship moved forward too quickly for me.
Beyond the romance feeling a bit off, I also didn't enjoy the historically accurate pieces that Mimi Matthews chose to include with spiritualism. Typically I enjoy when historically accurate information is included. But I'm just not personally interested in spiritualism so I didn't enjoy this part of the story, and I hope it isn't involved as much in future books. However, if Anne's story is ever written, I imagine that it will be heavily involved because Anne's mother is an enthusiast.
So Evelyn is used to being independent coming from a smaller village. Her parents are dead and her aunt is her guardian. She goes to stay with her uncle to have a London season and attempt to find a husband. She's determined to do well in this area because her older sister caused quite a scandal and all of Evelyn's younger sisters depend on her marrying well. She does have a maid employed by her uncle but she doesn't work full-time. And so Evelyn has more unchaperoned time than a typical lady. And thus she has more opportunities to be alone with Mr. Malik.
Ahmad has dreams of becoming a dressmaker. He currently designs women's riding habits. But he wants to branch out into gowns and dresses. His success will determine his future as well as his cousin Mira and the seamstresses he hopes to hire. Ahmad lives in an in-between world. He's not quite lower society but he's not quite a gentleman. Not to mention he is half Indian and half British. He knows that marrying Evelyn will force her to live in the in-between with him. And he doesn't want that for her.
Of the Mimi Matthews books that I've read, I didn't enjoy The Siren of Sussex nearly as much as I hoped or expected. I can't explain why, but I felt uncomfortable with Evelyn and Ahmad. Embarrassed was the closest emotion that matched what I was feeling. I felt a desire to put this book down more than once and that is always an indication that I'm not enjoying a book as much as I would like. The Siren of Sussex gets 3 Stars. Have you read The Siren of Sussex? What did you think? Let me know!