Today’s team review is from Sandra.
Sandra has been reading A Convenient Fiction by Mimi Matthews.
Having thoroughly enjoyed The Work of Art, I was eager to read another of Mimi’s books set in the Victorian era. This is the third in the Parish Orphans of Devon series and is the story of Alex Archer – one of four young orphaned boys connected by a mysterious past that is only revealed a little bit at a time. I have not read the other books in the series but did not feel that this was a problem. While it would be better to read them in order (and I will when my TBR pile goes down a bit), A Convenient Fiction works just as well as a standalone. Set in Surrey in 1860, Alex accompanies George Wright on a visit home in the hope of marrying local heiress, Henrietta Talbot. On the way to the vicarage, he rescues Laura Hayes, whose life he believes is in danger; she is simply practising breathing underwater and is not impressed. Laura is a friend of Henrietta’s and is called on to act as chaperone, and so the four of them spend a lot of time together.
I found the story quite slow to start with, and it was hard to imagine how Alex and Laura could ever be together, but it is testament to the author’s storytelling skills how well she is able to pull this off. My only slight criticism is the occasional use of US English in a book set in the UK. The characters are well-rounded and believable. There are echoes of the world of Charles Dickens in the thread about the dishonest lawyer, and of Jane Austen in the care Alex takes to help Laura’s aunt and brother. By the time his past is fully uncovered, Alex is revealed to be, ironically, a much better man than George. One of the highlights of the book is the trip to Margate with the bathing machines and the people sitting on the beach using telescopes to admire the bathers.
She Needed a Husband…
It’s been three years since Laura Hayes’s father died, leaving her and her invalid brother to subsist on the income from the family’s failing perfume business. But time is swiftly running out. What she needs is a husband, and fast. A noble gentleman who can rescue them all from penury. When a mysterious stranger arrives in the village, he seems a perfect candidate. But Alex Archer is no hero. In fact, he just might be the opposite.
He Wanted a Fortune…
Alex has no tolerance for sentiment. He’s returned to England for one reason only: to find a wealthy wife. A country-bred heiress in Surrey seems the perfect target. But somewhere between the village railway station and the manor house his mercenary plan begins to unravel. And it’s all the fault of Laura Hayes—a lady as unsuitable as she is enchanting.
From the beaches of Margate to the lavender fields of Provence, a grudging friendship slowly blossoms into something more. But when scandal threatens, can a man who has spent his entire life playing the villain, finally become a hero? Or will the lure of easy riches once again outweigh the demands of his heart?