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The Matrimonial Advertisement

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This is a very well written Victorian romance. I particularly like the fact t that the author stays true to the period. Great character development.  This is a stand alone book, but it of three loosely connected novels.
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This book was a bit of a surprise. I was expecting the standard Gothic-Victorian romance. The teaser blurb had an isolated location, bad weather, cliffs and crags, and the restless sea crashing up against the cliffs, which sets the scene for a typical atmospheric romance. A very dark atmosphere.

I found this book fascinating as it presented aspects of the Victorian period that I've never seen in fiction before. Both the hero and heroine have a lot of problems and angst. When the story begins, the heroine is attempting to escape from her stepfather, who controls her access to her inheritance, which is why she responds to the matrimonial advertisement. In many ways, this book is difficult to read -- it could be triggering for people sensitive to scenes of domestic abuse. The hero is scarred and damaged from his experiences in India, and feels unworthy to be anyone's husband.  What I found most unusual was the treatment of the status of women in the legal system of Great Britain in that period.
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This was a slow burn that would be a good modern choice for those who list a Bronte sister as their favorite.
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Justin Thornhill, lately Captain in the army in India, needs a wife, someone to smooth the way for him with locals, to manage his bleak household and to occasionally warm his bed. An advertisement seems like just the thing. Helena Reynolds is desperate to escape London, even if it means marrying a complete stranger and moving to a remote estate in North Devon. It's a business arrangement, right? No one was meant to fall in love. But Helena's past is catching up with her and Justin is obliged to protect her. Or is it more than obligation? This is one of those books where both partners are hiding secrets that could have (or maybe should have) been revealed earlier, but where's the fun in that? A 'clean' Victorian romance with a touch of sexual tension.
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As historical romances go, this is an excellent example of how to tell a totally engrossing story with a perfect ending.  Set in Victorian England, where the majority of great love stories are set, Helena and Justin come together when she answers his advertisement for a wife.  Past circumstances for both have led them to believe a business arranged marriage is best for them.  Their lives are pushed and pulled by their pasts until they discover the arrangement has turned into something more for both of them.  An excellent start to a new historical romance series.
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This was an engaging story and a quick, clean, romantic historical fiction. When Helena, the daughter of an earl, answers an advertisement for marriage, to Justin, an orphaned bastard of the nobility, each agrees tot the contract for their own secretive reasons. However, as the secrets quickly begin to unravel, the pair needs to struggle with their own underlying issues and their burgeoning attraction for each other in order to move forward. This was a new author for me and I will definitely read more of her work.
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This was honestly rather nondescript. It was a good plot, well written, but in the end forgettable when compared to similar books. I am a huge fan of Jane Eyre and it's clear that this book was meant to embody that but it didn't quite reach the quality of writing that Bronte's version was. I enjoyed it overall, but having waited a few weeks to review there's nothing that stands out about it.
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This was a cute premise for a historical romance and these characters were soooo enjoyable to read about. I loved Helena's bravery and Justin's desire to look after her. I was interested to find out that parts of it were based on real events. I look forward to continuing the series when it comes out.
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The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon #1) 
by Mimi Matthews 

An Absolute BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY..... but only if you want a superb historical.... with a great story and not all sex! I loved the writing, the setting, the characters. The fact the writer took the time to create a story that will suck the reader in and hold their attention was fantastic! I love the fact that the story unfolds not into pages and pages of sex... but pages and pages of story that just keeps going. At my age I am tired of opening a book to find it is not a story book but instead I have purchased a sex novel. My reading historical romance has always been about the story line the history the people. Not about 30 pages of sex every other chapter. So if you want a super historical that is really a story then you must buy this book. It was enjoyment from page one to the very end! I was given this ARC via NetGalley. All opinions expressed here are my own! Regards, Anna
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I just loved this book. Mimi Matthews has combined a bit of Sepoy Rebellion history with the treatment of women in asylums in this wonderful romance novel. When Helena answers an advertisement to become Justin Thornhill’s wife, she never expects that this scarred war hero could be a survivor, just like her. Through friendship and kindness they find admiration and passion with each other. It’s historical romance at it’s best - with plenty of angst and real history.  Loved it.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book in return for my honest opinion and review.

Set in the mid 1800s, this book is a nearly perfect gothic romance. It has everything you need, an innocent young woman who is on the run, strong, handsome, brooding man with a hero complex and a dark past, a crumbling cliffside abbey with a secret past and perhaps a ghost or two in future books, great additional characters and a wonderful love story.

Helena Reynolds answers an ad to marry a gentleman who lives in an  abbey on the remote cliffside, she will go to any lengths to escape London; she requires only that this gentleman keep her safe and be kind. She has met her match in Justin, he is all of that and more.  I loved the way the story was told and how it touched on some issues of those times. I liked that Justin’s  backstory was centered on true events.   The sparks between Helena and Justin were there right from the start, she was not scared off by his starters she was intrigued, he thought that she was much too beautiful to be his wife, and that he would never be able to make her happy; but in truth these two are perfect for one another. The fact that this story is not heavy on the sex but more interested in building a connection between these two is so refreshing, so many books get right to the action, those few sweet kisses in the beginning were perfect.

This book left me wanting more, I cannot wait to read the remaining books in this series.
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Finally, a romance I can approve of. Okay, okay, answering an ad in the paper and only meeting the person you're going to marry a couple days before is not something I would recommend but, in fiction, it works out great! There is nothing I like better than a period romance and this one was definitely an interesting read. Let's get to the review!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

She Wanted Sanctuary... 

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar's Abbey isn't the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill--though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome--is anything but a romantic hero.

He Needed Redemption... 

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household--and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena's past threatens, will Justin's burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

Helena Reynolds is on the run. She has been mistreated too many times and now must get away from London and try to find a safe haven out in the country. But she doesn't leave London without a plan. With the help of her companion, Jenny, they find and respond to an advertisement in the local paper that is asking for a suitable to marry a man in Devon.

So, Helena makes her way to Devon. Anxious and always looking over her shoulder, she ends up in a little pub and that's where she first meets Justin Thornhill. At first, he pretends to be any other villager, but once his solicitor speaks to her, he reveals himself as the man she is meant to marry.

To say that both Helena and Justin are surprised by what they find in each other is perhaps an understatement.

Helena was not expecting her new husband to be handsome, but she also wasn't expecting him to have burn scars down one side of his body.

Justin was not expecting his future bride to be beautiful, young, and well-mannered. He specifically asked for someone who was older, perhaps a widow, and who could take the harsh weather and the somewhat less-than-ideal conditions around his estate.

Justin wonders why Helena would have to answer an advertisement when it's clear she could have anyone she wanted. But he soon understands that she's clearly running from something and if nothing else, he is able to keep her safe.

So they get married. But what was supposed to solve all their problems, soon just brings on even more. Justin and Helena have many demons and they follow them into their marriage.

Helena's abusers are relentless and follow her to Devon, even trying to convince Justin to give her over to them (as if!). Luckily, he's not a man to be messed with. He's an ex-soldier who's been tortured and abused in a prison camp. A couple of well-to-do gentlemen are nothing compared to that.

Together, they fight each other's demons and through many adventures, setbacks, and miscommunications, they do end up happily ever after.

I really enjoyed this book. While the couple had their issues, the author didn't string us along for too many chapters before a problem was solved (I hate when that happens). While Helena does start off the book as a rather shy and timid character, through her own will and with Justin and Jenny's help, she becomes the strongest character of them all.

Justin may be physically strong at the beginning of the book, but damn does the dude have some baggage. Helena, through her determination and love for him, helps Justin work through all that he's been through, so he can eventually find acceptance. Acceptance of himself and acceptance that Helena does actually love him just the way he is.

The Marriage Advertisement is a lovely story and if you're into romance and especially, period romances, I really think you'll really enjoy these characters. Trigger warning for physical abuse. It is described pretty openly. There is also a scene where Helena describes what happened when she was forced to undergo treatment at a mental institution. Remember the time period: these "treatments" are not pretty.

I am giving The Marriage Advertisement 4 out of 5 stars. Call me crazy, but I love a semi-arranged marriage that turns into true love!

The Marriage Advertisement by Mimi Matthews came out September 4, 2018. Go get a copy romance fans!

Thank you to NetGalley and Perfectly Proper Press for the free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I FREAKIN loved this book! Holy cupcakes! 

Okay so, first, Marriage of Convenience stories = RACHEL CATNIP! Total Rachel Catnip! Just gimme all of them! 

Second, the setting is all broody and craggy and totally kinda Thornfield and makes amazing use of the rain-swept hills and cliffs of Devon. 

Third, you get some time in London, too! Just for extra measure! AS WELL--- you get throw backs to the Great Exhibition ( one of the ways in which the hero and heroine nurture their VERY realistic and well developed friendship as it slowly unravels toward love).

Here's the deal, guys, when I was younger, I was all ROCHESTER FOREVER. Then I kinda grew up and I kinda think he's super problematic and controlling and manipulative. But, I still like the archetype. Justin Thornhill is the archetype redeemed. He is a caring and genuinely good human with a good soul despite his tragic past. Yes, he grew up an orphan and had some childhood tragedies that spun into his being tortured and scarred in an Indian prison. But he hasn't let that doom and gloom him. He allows himself to open up to the possibility of taking Helena under his protection. He genuinely cares for the people in his life and his staff and his conscience and his willingness to sacrifice for the people he loves just make him the freakin bee's knees. He has such a tender way in approaching his growing attraction for his bride. He ensures she is comfortable, that they work in the realm of friendship. .... and .... and... just because they are legally married and such doesn't mean he demands that they become husband and wife in EVERY last sense. Not until she is with him on the same plain of affection and commitment beyond their recited vows.

"What sort of blackguard would have relations with a woman who hasn't chosen him of her own free will?"

Dude, as someone who has read about EIGHT TRILLION historical marriage of convenience stories, I can name dozens. GOOD on YOU! 

Helena marries Justin to protect herself from a wily uncle and his henchmen who want her inheritance and to throw her back into an asylum to get it. I mean, this is kinda Gothic-y but who cares because the point is not HOW Justin and Helena are tossed together like the surf and crest of the Devon waves on a lugubrious day, just that they are.

Also, I freakin cried at the end because JUSTIN. He's a good soul. He loves her... he TREASURES her... he kicks into the commitment of his vows immediately and cherishes her even as he knows that their marriage is one borne of her need for security. But what makes him a genuine dish of a hero is that he makes that enough. Dedicates himself to her while still being broody and dishy and mysterious. 

There's a bit of a beauty and a beast thing happening here and I especially love the small steps they take toward friendship.

Unlike a ton of M of C stories, this is not heavy on the bedroom scenes (mostly because, as you see above, Justin is a TOTAL gent and is just too good for that) but the kissage is all time awesome and the inference of marital relations is implied and lovely and specific to a time when both Justin and Helena take that final step toward their HEA. 

(yes, they get together. if that is a spoiler, sorry.) 

It is HOW they get together and what they learn from each other as they slowly bend and learn and trust that make this just a delicious story.

This, my friends, is the story you save for those chilly October nights when leaves are scuttling over the damp tarmac and the moon is hanging low and everything is dark and sumptuous and you want a gorgeous Gothic backdrop to a truly sweet love story with a super duper dishy hero.

thanks to Netgalley for the review copy.

Justin, you dreamboat! all the hearts for you.
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Thanks Netgalley for the ARC and enabling my weird historical fiction and/or romance binge! 

<b>Pros</b>: Fun and light gothic themes and vibes for the win, the tortured & angsty hero, the tortured but persevering heroine, the pacing revealing the "horrible secret"/"secrets" and how it effected the plot, the overall plot.

<b>Cons</b>: I felt like Greyfriar's Abbey would've been used a little better? <spoiler>It seemed like it jumped to London fairly quickly, and it made sense in some ways, but I'm a sucker for that sort of thing, so it felt like a missed opportunity.</spoiler>

<b>Neutral/RA notes</b>: This is Diet Gothic (just 1 calorie, not very Gothic) and fairly lightweight as far as the spooky factor goes, and there are no explicit/written out sexy scenes.
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This first book in a trilogy was a very entertaining read.  Helena and Justin are both looking for a quick solution to their problems.  Justin wants to appease the locals in their criticism of him and to have someone to share his home and bed.  Helena needs a man to protect her.  A well written and very readable book.  Looking forward to the next installment in the series.  

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a review copy.  This is my honest opinion.
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I actually loved this book! It gave my real Jane Eyre vibes at the beginning – perhaps that was because of the time period it is set in. Also because it’s the first non-fantasy book that I’ve read in a while and it was just such a refresher.
It’s set in the 1850’s. About 2 characters. A man looking for a wife, but doesn’t want to go through the whole thing of courting a woman. So instead he places an advertisement in the newspaper. And also a woman.
This woman unfortunately has had to deal with physical abuse from a family member, and so you do feel very sorry for her of course.
The whole book is full of secrets and mystery that are slowly released as the book goes on. The plot is pretty predictable, but I loved seeing how it all turned out!
The romance though. I was a little troubled with that. Only because it seemed to happen so fast. Once time had passed in the book though, it all seemed to balance out. Like I do get it, falling in love quickly, it happened to me when I met my husband, but theirs was in a matter days. Mine was a few weeks. And I just don’t get it. Sorry, but I don’t.
So I gave the book 4 stars, purely because of that. And also the romance was a little clingy for my liking. Like I get it, she’s an abuse victim who just wants protection. But in a world where we are teaching girls that you don’t need a man? Again, I get it, it’s set back in the 1800’s where you did. But still.
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Well, this year is turning out to be a year of stellar reads for me and The Matrimonial Advertisement was another stand out hit! I read it in one-sitting, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, flying through the pages. I was immediately enamored with Justin. Talk about a swoon-worthy man! Le sigh....

I am a tough critic when it comes to the romance aspect in books but I absolutely loved Helena and Justin. The reader can feel their connection and you want so much for them to be together. Two people with painful pasts, and secrets, both in need of what the other can offer. Yet finding so much more. 

I absolutely loved every minute I spent with The Matrimonial Advertisement. Mimi Matthews is an exceptional story-teller. There was a Beauty & the Beast feel to the book, and readers of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, and fans of Victorian novels will definitely love it.

Mimi Matthews has a new fan-girl! I can't wait to pick up her other books and devour them! 

5 Stars!
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Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

Author Mimi Matthews has been on my radar ever since the release of her début novel, The Lost Letter in 2017, but this is the first time I’ve read one of her books.  The Matrimonial Advertisement is the first in her Parish Orphans of Devon series, and as the title suggests, the story is a variation on the mail-order-bride theme.  I enjoyed the author’s prose style; Ms. Matthews writes with elegance and precision, and she has created two sympathetic, engaging central characters, but the second half of the novel lacks any real sense of drama or romantic conflict – and what there is, is manufactured.  Ultimately, the great first half isn’t enough to compensate for the weakness of the second, and the story feels unbalanced as a result.

Former army captain Justin Thornhill has recently acquired the imposing and remote Greyfriars Abbey in the area of North Devon where he grew up.  He fought in India where he was caught up in the Siege of Cawnpore, captured and tortured; and now he wants to live the quiet life of a country squire. But he’s having trouble staffing the abbey owing to the rumours that continue to dog him about the part he may have played in the death of the estate’s previous owner, an uncaring reprobate who drank hard, played hard and thought any female within his orbit was fair game.  After the departure of the latest housekeeper, Justin’s steward suggests he needs a wife and that perhaps he should place a matrimonial advertisement – and so he finds himself faced with the prospect of ‘interviewing’ possible brides.

Justin is clear about the sort of wife he wants:

“I have no interest in courtship… nor in weeping young ladies who take to their bed with megrims. What I need is a woman. A woman who is bound by law and duty to see to the running of this godforsaken mausoleum.  A woman I can bed on occasion.”

– and Helena Reynolds most definitely doesn’t fit his idea of a capable, sensible wife.  She’s stunningly beautiful and is obviously well-bred – and right from the off, he can tell she’s hiding something; why else would such a lovely young woman want to bury herself in the middle of nowhere and marry a complete stranger?  When he asks her that question, she calmly tells him that she’s been told he knows how to keep a woman safe; which tells him she’s clearly frightened of someone or something, but a first meeting isn’t the place to enquire.  Besides, Justin finds he wants Helena very badly.  And, he reflects, she isn’t the only one keeping secrets.

Helena  was desperate to get away from London, and knows that marriage is just about the only way she can protect herself.  A married woman belongs to her husband in every respect, and Ms. Matthews does an excellent job of drawing attention, through Helena’s character, to the very limited options and freedom of woman at this period of time, and commenting on the unfair laws that stripped married women of all rights and property and opened them up to all sorts of abuse.  The solicitor in London with whom she’d communicated briefly has assured her that Justin is a good, decent man who will be able to protect her, and now she has met him, Helena can judge for herself that those statements were true.

The first part of the story is beautifully done, showing the gradual development of love and trust between Justin and Helena as they bond over shared interests and gradually come to realise that their marriage of convenience has the potential to be something far more than either of them expected.  They agree fairly early on that there should be no secrets between them, something I really appreciated, and both their stories are heart-breaking; Helena has been betrayed in the worst way by those who should have cared for her, while Justin carries wounds, both physical and mental, as the result of the torture he suffered in India, and his own survivor’s guilt.  The author’s research is impeccable and she incorporates both characters’ backstories seamlessly into the narrative. She also makes excellent use of the remote coastal setting, creating a brooding atmosphere reminiscent of the gothic romances of the time with her evocative descriptions of the remote clifftop house, the crashing waves and the incessant rain flooding the roads which isolates the Abbey even further.

The romance that develops between Justin and Helena is sweet and tender, and it proceeds at a gentle pace, thankfully devoid of the excessive mental lusting that appears in so many romances.  There’s a strong attraction between them, yes, but they’re attracted to each other for more than looks; Helena’s quiet inner strength and resilience, combined with a sensibility that seems appropriate for a young woman of her station makes her feel very much of her time, while Justin’s crusty exterior hides a decent, kind man, and together, they’re a couple it’s easy to root for.   Love is uncharted territory for both of them, and Ms. Matthews does a splendid job of showing, through their actions and words, that they’re falling hard for each other.  But then, just after the half-way point, things come to a stuttering halt, and all the tension the author has built up in the first part of the book just disappears.  The focus shifts, pushing the romance into a secondary role while Justin and Helena are forced to return to London in order to save their marriage and save Helena from the clutches of those out to harm her.  But the thing is that they don’t really do anything; they have to show themselves in society to quash some of the rumours that have been circulating about Helena, but otherwise they pretty much wait around for things to happen, and the whole thing is very sedate with hardly any plot development.  And then, despite their agreement that there should be no secrets between them, Justin pulls the ‘I am not worthy’ card – which is one of my least favourite plot devices of all time.

I enjoyed The Matrimonial Advertisement, and had the story continued as well as it began, I’d have awarded it a solid B, maybe a B+, but as it is, I can only offer a qualified recommendation.  It has a lot to offer – excellent research, strong period feel, a tender romance and two well-rounded principals – but the second half doesn’t live up to the promise of the first, and in spite of all the things the book has going for it, I came away from it feeling a little  disappointed.
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Beautifully written, The Matrimonial Advertisement is an emotional, moving and touching romance. It brings two wounded people together that really were meant for each other and are strong together. The premise of this new series surrounds some men that were orphaned and had so many challenges in their lives. What a great first book that held me captive from the first page in this unique storyline.  Lady Helena Reynolds is running for her life and when she sees an advertisement for a wife in the paper, she hurries to Devon to get away from London as fast as she can. She needs protection and to be safe and prays the man she is going to will provide that in spades. Justin Thornhill, ex military captain with a hard background, only wants a wife to help him gain the trust of the villagers and bring some much needed structure to his home. He thinks that the woman who answered the ad is an older widow, but what he gets is young lovely Helena. Both have secrets and eventually as they begin to spend time together, they find the arrangement is more than they expected. Of course Justin is wary thinking no woman could really love him but he supports and guards Helena with his life. I wish I could convey how this story gripped my heart with the wonderful writing of this author. This is the first book I have read by her, but now I cannot wait to read more. Some of the secondary characters will soon have their own story and I know I will be reading them as soon as they are released.
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Gonna be completely honest, I picked this one up thinking it was going to be a historical drama of the likes of Westward the Women, got two pages in and realized it was a Gothic Romance. Surprising, but not a disappointment! The Matrimonial Advertisement is a fun, cute historical romance that isn't the most complex thing you're ever going to read, but which combines a romance plot with a look at how women were at risk due to their lack of individual status legally.

When Helena Reynolds arrives in a small village in North Devon, she is clearly running from something, or somebody in London. Something which has led her here, answering the advertisement from the newspaper for a wife. Justin Thornhill however, is not necessarily what she expected - neither is she what he thought she'd be.

Of course, the two quickly find themselves more and more intrigued by each other, and soon find that perhaps together they could combat each other's demons, even as they fight against their own.

A cute, quick read that delivers on the gothic aspects (oh, the brooding, the dark cliffs over the sea, the abbey house, I love ye tropes), the romance (good lord, did I mention the brooding), and some rather interesting historical tidbits about women's positions of power (or lack thereof). Check it out if you're looking for something sweet (and brooding) and particularly if you have a predisposition to gothic romances. You'll find more than enough for you here.

The Matrimonial Advertisement is available everywhere books are sold.
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