The Belle of Belgrave Square (Belles of London, # 2)
By: Mimi Matthews
Publication: October 11th 2022 by Berkley
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.
Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.
For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.
In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes…
I'm not sure why I thought book 2 would be Anne's book. Julia's interactions with Captain Blunt were more pronounced as a setup in book 1, The Siren of Sussex than Anne and Hartford. I wasn't excited about Anne's story because 1) I didn't love book 1 and 2) because Anne's mom is a spiritualist and that isn't something I am looking forward to reading about. That being said, Mimi Matthews reminded me of why I usually love her books with The Belle of Bellgrave Square.
Julia is socially awkward. She doesn't enjoy society and events with large groups of people. She has a little anxiety. Generally, I think more people feel this way than those who are completely comfortable in a crowd, but maybe I'm wrong. Her parents are both sickly, and Julia has found that occasionally she can claim illness too in order to avoid going out to certain events. She much prefers solitude and a good book. Who reading this review couldn't agree? But Julia's parents are also selfish, and she finds herself facing an unwanted marriage and future. Julia knows she needs to do something.
Jasper is a bit of a mystery. Although, I found most of his secrets were pretty easy to determine. He is seeking a wife this season, but specifically, he needs an heiress. His estate is nearly falling apart, and he has three children to provide for. I love how choosing Julia was one of the few selfish choices he's made in his life since the war. It reminded me of something husband said to me back when we were dating.
This was one of those marriage of convenience stories where both characters felt more than they were initially willing to share. It did remind me a little of Mimi Matthews' other book, The Work of Art. But I also appreciated that Mimi Matthews explains where she pulled inspiration from in the author's note at the end. In some ways, it makes me want to go back and read some of the books she pulled from, although I doubt I will.
-“You're very changeable, sir.”
-“That wasn’t a rescue. That was naught but a minor service.” Jasper’s eyes held hers, his voice dark with promise. “When I rescue you, Miss Wychwood, you’ll know it.”
-“Old sins cast long shadows,”
- “I can’t give myself to you if I don’t know who you truly are.”
-“I told you. I value your opinions.” “I would that you’d valued my confidence a little more,”
It's no surprise that Finchley makes an appearance in this book, but I love when authors tie in multiple series together. Fan service and all. I don't know if it was intentional, or not, but there's also a character referenced named Nanny Plum which if you have kids you might be familiar with Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom.
Overall, I enjoyed The Belle of Bellgrave Square much more than The Siren of Sussex, and I am actually looking forward to Anne's story now even if I dread reading about her ridiculous mother. Julia and Jasper had a lovely story, and I enjoyed the whole experience of their journey. I did have a couple of questions at the end*, but I don't like to ponder on things like that too much. I usually like to enjoy the story for what it is and move on. The Belle of Bellgrave Square gets 4 Stars. Have you read The Belle of Bellgrave Square? What did you think? Let me know!
*Highlight for spoiler question: 1. If you've ever watched Catfish then you know, in real life, forgiving someone who has lied about something as big as their identity is nearly impossible to forgive. 2. Are Jasper and Julia truly not planning on telling the children? Because it's hard to imagine that information won't come out one day, especially if Julia slips up and calls him James in front of them one day. But it would be the same betrayal all over again. Just questions I wondered briefly about. End.