A Gothic, Paranormal Retelling of Jane Eyre. @CathyRy reviews John Eyre by @MimiMatthewsEsq, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Cathy. She blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Cathy has been reading John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

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John Eyre is quite a different offering from from Mimi Matthews. In a very good way. It’s a gothic and paranormal retelling of Jane Eyre, with genders reversed and another classic tale thrown into the mix. The broodingly dark atmosphere of evil and menace is palpable.

After the devastation of a shocking death, John leaves his home and job weighed down by guilt. He has secured a post as tutor to the widowed Mrs Rochester’s two wards who reside at Thornfield Hall in Yorkshire. John is surprised and a little taken aback when he first meets the boys, who are small and undernourished, with shorn heads.

Bertha Rochester was not in residence as she travels abroad frequently. John has sole care of the boys and wonders why Mrs Rochester bothered to adopt children if she was rarely at home. He begins to implement changes to the arrangements Mrs Rochester left in place regarding the boys, despite her orders, becoming certain her regime could do them no good.

I liked the way the novel was structured with the narrative coming from John’s perspective in the present, told in the third person. He’s a worthy hero, with a kind heart as is shown through his sympathetic treatment of the two boys.

Alternating chapters chronicle Bertha’s story as her character is fleshed out through letters written to her good friend Blanche Ingram. Her letters and journal entries as she traveled document the places she visits and her eventual meeting with Edward Rochester. Her strong and fiercely independent spirit is evident throughout, even during the final, very chilling part of her journey before returning to Thornfield Hall and meeting John.

The whole ambience is quite creepy as befits a darkly gothic tale, with unexpected mists appearing randomly and repeatedly surrounding the estate and nearby area, strange noises and other disturbing occurrences.

All is far from what it seems at Thornfield Hall and Bertha’s return is the catalyst that sets terrible events in motion. A perfect read for Halloween…if you can wait that long.

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Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance John Eyre by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

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There is a very specific kind of delight in delving into a novel that retells a favorite story.

We know that Elizabeth and Darcy end up together, but what’s this I hear about zombies wandering around in regency England? What do you mean Maria is a vampire and merrily turning the Von Trapp children into the undead on a whim? Mansfield Park with a mummy curse?

Yes please. Any of it. All of it.

And to these hallowed halls of lovingly upended classics, Mimi Matthews brings us John Eyre, a retelling of Bronte’s Jane Eyre with several delicious inversions. The gender swapping is the obvious one, we have Bertha Rochester and John Eyre rather than Edward and Jane of the original. We have two silent boys of unknown origin for John to teach, rather than the precocious little French girl who was Jane’s charge. And lastly, delightfully, where Charlotte Bronte only hinted at the vampiric nature of the spouse chained up in the attic (see Anatol’s The Things That Fly In The Night if you’re curious about that), Matthews takes the concept and runs with it.

And when I say she runs with it, I mean she runs with it.

We’re back to classic vampire lore here: wolves, mist, silver and sunlight—there’s not a sparkle to be seen and no fixing this vamp with love.

Where the examples listed in the opening of this review all light heartedly melded supernatural elements with the original stories for largely comedic effect, Matthews is telling us a straight up vampire horror, with all the supernatural spooks, classic vampiric powers, and peril that entails.

Fitting, since the original Jane Eyre isn’t exactly a comedy to begin with and trying to make it one might cause some tonal issues.

For me, when reading a retelling like this, half the delight comes from comparing it to the original story. What changes did the second author make to the first’s work? What did they do that works better?

One of the great strengths of John Eyre comes from the dual narrators. Where Jane Eyre is told in the first person “I” and exclusively from Jane’s perspective as the events of the story happen to her, Matthews switches things up. John Eyre maintains a third person “he/she/they” perspective on our main storyline with a focus on the titular character, interspersed with old letters and journal entries from Bertha giving readers her backstory and crucially, slowly unveiling her first husband.

Where Bronte leaves Rochester a gruff enigma, giving readers only hints of how he became the man he is until the final big reveal at the climax, Matthews helps us know both of her leads. We watch Bertha grow from a relatively naïve, if intelligent and well-travelled, heiress into the strong, commanding woman that John meets when he comes to Thornfield Hall over a year later. We learn about both halves of this developing relationship and are more invested in the relationship because of it.

I’m a firm believer that there are no stories so sacred they can’t be retold should the right person attempt it, and with John Eyre Matthews has proven herself to be the right person. If I hadn’t had to eat and do a load of laundry, this would have been a finished in one sitting kind of book. As it is, it’s still a finished in one day book.

Excellent, all the way around.

5/5

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From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a supernatural Victorian gothic retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic.

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance GENTLEMAN JIM by @MimiMatthewsESq

Today’s team review is from Sandra, she blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews

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I have read and enjoyed quite a few novels by Mimi Matthews, but Gentleman Jim is my favourite so far. Set between Somerset and London in 1817, this is a tale full of love, adventure and revenge.

Maggie Honeywell and Nicholas Seaton were childhood sweethearts who grew up together on her father’s estate in Somerset; she the squire’s daughter, and he the illegitimate son of the kitchen maid, though his father was rumoured to be the notorious highwayman, Gentleman Jim.

Her father had always wanted to join his estate with the neighbouring one by having Maggie marry Frederick Burton-Smythe. She loathed him, but this was no deterrent to her father’s plans. Jealous of their close relationship, Fred falsely accuses Nicholas of stealing Maggie’s jewellery, and intends handing him over to the magistrate, thereby eliminating his rival. Maggie has other ideas – she helps Nicholas escape and vows to wait for him. He sets off to find his father and promises to return.

We learn all this in the prologue. Ten years have gone by, and Maggie’s father is now dead. She is completely at Fred’s mercy – in six months she must either marry him or lose everything. In this day and age it is hard for us to fathom that a devoted father would put his daughter in this position, but women were simply seen as possessions with little or no say in what happened to them.

Maggie goes to stay with a friend in London to try to come up with a plan. She learns that a Viscount St Clare has challenged Fred to a duel. If anything should happen to Fred, her estate will go to a distant relative, and she will be no better off, so she visits St Clare to try and dissuade him from fighting the duel. She comes away convinced that St Clare is Nicholas Seaton, though he denies it vehemently, as this would mess up his plans to prove he is the grandson and legitimate heir of the Earl of Allendale.

The emphasis in Gentleman Jim is different from Mimi Matthews’ previous books. It is partly set in London during the season, with more exposure to the eyes of the ton, and all this entails – balls, duels, etiquette and carriage rides in the park. There is a large element of suspense, mystery and adventure which shows Maggie to be a fearless, feisty heroine capable of holding her own when the going gets tough.

The characters are all well written and relatable, even the nasty ones who are willing to go to any lengths to satisfy their greed. Mimi Matthews brings Regency England to life, seamlessly inserting the period detail into the story with a light touch. My only reservation would be that I don’t think the cover art does the book justice.

At the start of Gentleman Jim, the likelihood of Maggie and Nicholas ending up together seems pretty remote, but this is a romance novel so the ending is almost a foregone conclusion. It is how Mimi Matthews brings the story to a satisfying and believable finale that makes this such an enjoyable read.

Book description

She couldn’t forget…

Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nicholas is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nicholas escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nicholas never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive…

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic #Romance GENTLEMAN JIM by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews

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Maggie Honeywell, the only child of Squire Honeywell and raised more as his son and eventual heir than an indulged daughter, had a happy childhood spending most of her time with Nicholas Seaton, the illegitimate son of scullery maid, Jenny Seaton. Now a groom in Squire Honeywell’s stables, Nicholas had incurred the wrath of Frederick Burton-Smythe, whose estate borders the Honeywell’s and the man her father wants Maggie to marry. Their fathers had agreed years ago the two would marry, thereby joining the two estates. Maggie had other ideas. Nicholas was the only man for her and the feeling was mutual.

Determined to get rid of Nicholas, cowardly bully Frederick accuses him of stealing pieces of Maggie’s jewellery, beats him and locks him in a loose box to await his fate when Frederick returns with the magistrate.

‘Beaten and bloody, Nicholas Seaton sat on the straw-covered floor of the loose box, his legs drawn up against his chest and his forehead resting on his knees. There was no possibility of escape. The doors of the loose box had been bolted shut and the wooden walls were made strong and thick, built to hold the most powerful of Squire Honeywell’s blooded stallions.’

Thanks to Maggie, Nicholas is able to escape, vowing to try and find the man he believes to be his father and return for Maggie. Ten years on and Maggie has all but given up hope and suffers lingering symptoms from a bout of influenza. Her father had passed away and the terms of his will stipulate she has to marry someone Frederick approves of in order to keep her beloved Beasley Park, or after two years the entire estate passes to Frederick. As he also controls the purse strings and wants to control Maggie, she has to ask his permission for anything she needs. A visit to an old friend in London opens up new opportunities for Maggie and she soon recovers her spirit and the will to fight for her right to be happy, although her physical recovery takes longer.

I’m a recent convert to Mimi Matthews’ books, having only read two previously. Gentleman Jim is actually my favourite so far. It’s a tale of romance, drama, revenge, overcoming obstacles and much more. Lots of wonderfully described detail, in keeping with the culture and etiquette of the period. Maggie and St Clare are charismatic protagonists who develop and adjust as the story unfolds, with the secondary characters adding much to the story. Highly recommended for those who like a good Victorian romance, with elements of danger, secrecy and daring.

Book description

She couldn’t forget…

Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nicholas is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nicholas escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nicholas never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive…

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Victorian #Romance FAIR AS A STAR by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Sandra, she blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Fair As A Star by Mimi Matthews

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Set in Somerset in 1864, Fair as a Star is the first in the Victorian Romantics series by Mimi Matthews. Newly returned from a mysterious trip to Paris with her aunt, Beryl Burnham tries to pick up her life where she left off. She is engaged to Sir Henry Rivenhall, in a marriage of convenience, but has always been good friends with his brother, Mark, who is curate in the local church.

No one knows why she left for France so suddenly, and local gossip was rife, but she has to come clean to Mark when he accidentally finds her weeping in a secluded spot by the river. She is suffering from depression (or melancholy as it was known then) and does not want anyone to know, partly because of the extreme treatments advocated by her previous doctor.

Mark is very understanding, and does not belittle what she is going through. As a curate, he is a good listener and this is just what she needs. He does not suggest cures for her melancholy, does not even see her as damaged. The message here is to accept others for who they are as individuals, and not try to make them all fit into the same mould.

This is a romance novel, and the ending is obvious from the start, but it is how Mimi Matthews achieves this end that makes it so readable. Sir Henry is very full of his own importance and thinks he knows best, but does not love Beryl. She realises her affections lie elsewhere and behaves in a very bold fashion.

I read this in one sitting, and thought it dealt very sensitively with the difficult subject of depression. It was not really understood back then, and a lot of strange, harmful beliefs and so-called ‘cures’ were commonplace. Medicine was a very male-dominated profession, and women faced both the patronising attitude of old-school male doctors, and the ludicrous treatments they prescribed.

The period detail is convincing, and the characters come across as well rounded individuals; my favourite was Beryl’s horse-mad sister, Winnifred, whose story will no doubt feature in a later book. I will certainly be looking out for the next book in the Victorian Romantics series.

Book description

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it’s Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings—or betraying his brother?

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Viscount And The Vicar’s Daughter by @MimiMatthewsEsq

Today’s team review is from Eleanor, she blogs here http://www.eleanorsauthor.com/

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Eleanor has been reading The Viscount And The Vicar’s Daughter by Mimi Matthews

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The premise of the novel was a nice take on the oft-used virgin-reforms-a-jaded-rake trope. I loved that Lord Tristan was considered a rake beyond redemption and persona non grata by most of the ton; most “rakes” you read about are still darlings of polite society and get away with their crimes. The fact that Tristan was considered beyond redemption by all, including his own father, added a quite unique twist to the novel that I really enjoyed.

The story is delightfully prim and proper in the style of a Jane Austen regency. Mimi is clearly a polished and practised writer and the novel flows very well and it was a joy to read from a technical perspective. Her historical research and deep understanding of the period is seamless with the story with no historical fact info dumps. Even I, a bit of a stickler for correct historical facts and behaviour, couldn’t find much to quibble over. Even the speech was evocative of the period so a big thumbs up from me here.

The thing that stopped this novel from being really great for me was the speed with which Tristan and Valentine fell in love. They had good depth as characters and appropriate motivations for their actions during the novel but I simply didn’t buy that they were in love after only a couple of days in each others’ company. I believe Tristan fell deeply in lust very quickly and Valentine certainly admired his manly form in her innocent way but I didn’t feel there was yet an overwhelmingly grand passion (difficult in a ‘proper’ Regency, I know) or connection between the two to account for them being in love so soon. I felt the groundwork had been wonderfully laid for them to go on and fall in love on further acquaintance but the novel ended too soon for it actually to be a believable reality for me. I’d have very happily continued reading about them for several more chapters to bed this in. It was just a bit unsatisfying as I felt there could’ve been so much more there but was curtailed by a likely word count requirement. Still a thoroughly enjoyable read though.

Book description

England, 1861. A world-weary rake and a prim vicar’s daughter are thrown together during a holiday house party. Will they discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

A WORLD-WEARY RAKE

After years of unbridled debauchery, Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton has hit proverbial rock bottom. Seeking to escape his melancholy, he takes refuge at one of Victorian society’s most notorious house parties. As the Christmas season approaches, he prepares to settle in for a month of heavy drinking…until an unexpected encounter changes his plans—and threatens his heart.

A PRIM VICAR’S DAUGHTER

Valentine March is not the drab little spinster she appears to be. When her new job as a lady’s companion lands her smack in the middle of Yorkshire with England’s most infamous rake, she resolves to keep her head down and her eyes fixed firmly on her future—a future which most definitely does not include a sinfully handsome viscount.

A MATCH MADE IN SCANDAL

A friendship is impossible. An affair out of the question. But when one reckless act binds them together, will two star-crossed souls discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

About the author

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Pen & Sword Books, November 2017) and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (Pen & Sword Books, July 2018). Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. When not writing historical non-fiction, Mimi authors exquisitely proper Victorian romance novels with dark, brooding heroes and intelligent, pragmatic heroines. Her debut Victorian romance The Lost Letter was released in September 2017.

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