Title: The Matrimonial Advertisement
Author: Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Publication Date: 4th September 2018
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have such conflicting thoughts about this book. It had so many elements I usually love: meticulously researched historical detail; good use of period language; and a cute romance. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy those elements – because I did, very much so – but I had such strong opposition to one particular aspect of the plot that I found my enjoyment sadly overshadowed by frustration.
The first few chapters of the novel created a fabulously Gothic vibe. Accompanied by atmospheric descriptions of the North Devon coastal scenery, Mimi Matthews introduces us to Helena Reynolds, who has responded to Captain Justin Thornhill’s matrimonial advertisement in the papers.
From the outset I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Helena and Justin; it was of a slow-burning nature, as each slowly began to chip away at the other’s defences. With Mimi Matthews’ flawless use of period language, I found both characters to be very believable in their dialogue and behaviour, and I was rooting for them all the way.
Unfortunately, at about a third of the way through the plot took a turn which just didn’t sit well with me. It’s difficult for me to state exactly what I didn’t like without spoiling the rest of the book, but I will just say that it had to do with the representation of a topic about which people generally held extremely damaging views back in the Victorian period.
I can’t fault Mimi Matthews’ representation of the topic as it would have been viewed in the period – but understanding of this topic has improved immeasurably since the 19th century, for good reason. This is a historical fiction, yes – but personally I feel there is no excuse in this day and age for publishing a novel with a message which bluntly and unfeelingly deals with what is such a triggering topic for so many people, including myself.
The last third of the book lost momentum for me. I’d been expected a bit more of a dramatic climax, but everything resolved itself too easily. I’m aware that this is the first in a trilogy, which might explain why the ending wasn’t as exciting and gripping as I’d hoped – but I think I’d also lost heart a bit by the end, since there were further unfeeling portrayals of the aforementioned topic which only increased my frustration.
I can’t fault Mimi Matthews’ portrayal of the time period, and I did very much enjoy her writing style. It’s a shame that I didn’t enjoy this book more, but I just couldn’t get past the potentially damaging messages it sent out about a topic which should always be dealt with sensitively and considerately.