A highborn lady must marry outside her class to save her family’s finances in Matthews’ (The Matrimonial Advertisement, 2018, etc.) latest Victorian romance.
Sophia Appersett is an appealing choice for a man looking for a wife. She’s smart, beautiful, sensible, and has what’s seen as the proper pedigree. Edward “Ned” Sharpe is an eligible bachelor—a self-made man with a substantial fortune but an unfortunate lack of experience in dating nobility. Ned follows poor advice in a gentleman’s etiquette book and manages to appear sullen, staid, and altogether disinterested in Sophie. As a result, she assumes that they have nothing in common and makes a move to end their courtship. But then Sophie catches a glimpse of the man beneath the mask and realizes that perhaps Ned feels things more deeply than she suspected. She proposes that they try to speak honestly with each other and encourages Ned to bring his parents to the Appersetts’ estate in Derbyshire over the holidays. Matthews includes all the required elements of a cozy English Christmas and a classic Victorian love story. Ned is the strong, silent type, and Sophie is predictably unaware of her own appeal; their budding romance is challenged by external forces, not the least of which are their respective parents: Sophie’s father is determined to modernize his estate and has spent both his daughters’ dowries in the quest for advancement, while Edward’s mother visibly disapproves of Sophie and her perceived snootiness. Yet the spirit of the season wins out, and the couple’s future is never really in doubt. Matthews’ novella is full of comfort and joy—a sweet treat for romance readers that’s just in time for Christmas. As in her previous historical romance novels, Matthews addresses hot topics in Victorian society; this time around, the theme is adaptation, as Sophie invites members of differing social classes to the Christmas celebration: “We’re part of the modern age,” Sophie tells her sister. “We must change along with it or be left behind in the dust.”
A very merry tale of romance that’s perfect for the holiday season.