The Winter Companion

Parish Orphans of Devon, Book 4

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Pub Date 11 Feb 2020 | Archive Date 08 Feb 2020

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A winter reunion for the orphans brings romance for Neville Cross in Book 4 of Mimi Matthews' USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series.

She Needed to be Seen...

As a lady's companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that's precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it's far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a month-long holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she'd hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He Wanted to be Heard...

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady's companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do?

A winter reunion for the orphans brings romance for Neville Cross in Book 4 of Mimi Matthews' USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series.

She Needed to be Seen...

As a lady's companion...

A Note From the Publisher

This is an advance uncorrected proof.

This is an advance uncorrected proof.

Advance Praise

Praise for Mimi Matthews' USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series

"For this impressive Victorian romance, Matthews crafts a tale that sparkles with chemistry and impresses with strong character development... an excellent series launch that will appeal to fans of Loretta Chase and Stephanie Laurens." -Publishers Weekly (The Matrimonial Advertisement)

"Matthews has a knack for creating slow-building chemistry and an intriguing plot with a social history twist." -Library Journal (The Matrimonial Advertisement)

"As always, Matthews' attention to historical accuracy is impeccable." -Kirkus Reviews (A Modest Independence)   

"Matthews is a bright, shining star in historical romance..." -Austenprose (A Modest Independence)  

"Beautifully mixes Georgette Heyer with Victoria Holt...[a] heartbreaker of a novel that sinks its claws right into you, then kisses the wound it leaves behind." -All About Romance (A Convenient Fiction)
Praise for Mimi Matthews' USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series

"For this impressive Victorian romance, Matthews crafts a tale that sparkles with chemistry and impresses with strong...

Marketing Plan

About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning, proper historical romances set in Victorian England. 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 at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.
About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning, proper historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth...

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ISBN 9781733056946
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Featured Reviews

A lady's companion ought to blend in with her surroundings, but it's impossible for Clara Hartwright to remain invisible. Forced into genteel service in order to support her brother's studies at Cambridge, Clara yearns to be a student of natural philosophy in her own right. When her position takes her to the freezing winterscape of Greyfriar's Abbey in Devon, she forms a connection with Neville Cross, the tongue-tied Nordic giant who is a perplexing mix of gentleman and stablehand. 

Abashed by his speech impediment and difficulty in articulating his thoughts, Neville works up the courage to befriend Miss Hartwright. When she's not catering to her elderly client's whims, Clara seeks out Neville's assistance with her little pug dog, and he invites her to help him with the rare Dartmoor pony whose injured leg he is tending. 

Their shared love of animals sparks a mutual interest, and before long, Clara realizes that Neville has depths that very few people have plumbed. But when Neville discovers that Clara's dream is to travel the world as a naturalist (or, at least, a naturalist's secretary), his own fears of leaving the Abbey go to war with the burgeoning love he has for his winter companion. 

This book was, to put it succinctly, a wonder. The fourth book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series, it explores the story of Neville, the orphan boy who was injured long ago in a fall from the cliffs, giving him a permanent brain injury that makes communication difficult. When involved in active labor in the outdoors, his mind is clear enough, but the sustained effort of dealing with ledgers, administrative tasks, or conversational pleasantries makes his mind drift elsewhere. Clara, never at a loss for words, understands Neville in a way that not even his three friends (Justin, Tom, and Alex) can, lending him just the right amount of support to stand on his own, encouraging him in his own dreams of conserving the endangered Dartmoor ponies.

This story was a simple and poignant one with no major villain to be overcome other than the internal struggles of both protagonists. Clara's unkind betrayal at the hands of those close to her unfolds gradually, with a perfect sense of mystery, and Neville coming to Clara's rescue was one of the sweetest things I have ever read. Tennyson has always been my favorite poet, and if you have a soul, you will weep when Neville shares his favorite poem with Clara in the railway coach. 

After seeing Neville in the previous three books as a minor character, I didn't know how Mimi Matthews was going to make a romantic hero out of him, but once again, she proves that she is the mistress of proper Victorian romance, creating a love story for the ages that uplifts, inspires, and satisfies. 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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‘ “I never dared dream in all my life that I would get a happy ending of my very own.” He drew her back into his arms. “My dear love…..” His words were slow but sure. “This is only the beginning.” ‘

Picking up a Mimi Matthews book is like holding a decadent dessert. A beautifully exquisite cover that beckons to you. Inside, it’s filled with the most captivating and delicious story. One in which you find yourself closing your eyes and sighing often. Savoring every page. The Winter Companion was definitely sigh worthy. Brimming with endearing characters, flawless pacing, and a wonderfully romantic and hopeful story. No two characters were more deserving of love than Clara and Neville.
As a new lady’s companion to Mrs. Bainbridge, Clara was at Greyfriar Abbey for a brief three week holiday among strangers. Life as a companion was not what she’d planned for herself, but a humiliating past incident and family obligation had led her to her current situation in hopes that someday her life could truly begin. Still, she longed for more.
Neville Cross lived at Greyfriar Abbey. A childhood accident had left him with difficulties with speech. He wasn’t a recluse but kept to the areas surrounding the abbey where people knew him and it was safe. He wanted a life of his own choosing but pride and fear kept him close to home. He avoided people and kept his speech to a minimum. The difficulties that plagued his speech worsened when he was anxious. The more out of sorts he became, the harder it was to form words. And Clara Hartwright made him feel out of sorts. She was beautiful with a soft voice and gentle, competent manner. Clara was rather out of sorts with Neville as well. She saw him as a Galahad. He was quite handsome, intelligent, and genuinely kind. During their brief time together at Greyfriar Abbey, they formed a friendship, each longing for more. When difficulties with Clara’s family arise and Clara must leave, Neville has to face his fears and insecurities if he ever hopes for more.
I fell in love with Neville and Clara immediately. Both were doing what they must in life and not what they longed to do. They’d felt alone in life. Until they met each other. I loved watching their friendship and their romance awaken and slowly build. Mimi Matthews never fails to deliver a story that evokes all my mushy, soppy emotions but leaves me feeling hopeful about the power of love. Her books are sheer perfection.
I have no idea how I missed this Parish Orphans of Devon series, but I will be going back and reading the rest. I want to know more about Neville’s friends with whom such a strong bond developed during their youth in the orphanage. There’s an element of darkness and lingering tragedy to the group and I’m anxious to read Tom, Alex, and Justin’s stories. Any Mimi Matthews book is a reading experience you won’t soon forget. Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an ARC of this beautiful story.

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Fourth in the Parish Orphans of Devon series, The Winter Companion can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone, but your reading experience will be so much more enriched if you read them all in order. The entire series pretty much revolves around Neville's accident when the boys were young, and how the accident affected the trajectory of each of their lives. So here we finally get Neville's story and come to understand not only how the accident affected his life, but how his three friends dealt with their feelings about it directly affected Neville's life. And our heroine Clara comes in with a whole slew of problems of her own, but she finds a kindred spirit in Neville, and both are shocked to finally find a partner in life when they'd both accepted that they would go through life alone.

Once again, Mimi Matthews creates a beautiful world for her characters. She has hands down set the stand in Victorian romance, creating characters that are strong, but struggle, always trying to do right by those around them, and admitting when they need help. No one is perfect, but her heroes and heroines are always perfect for each other.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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I love this entire series. Each character is given distinct personalities and has a character arc that grows throughout the series even when they are not the main focus of the book.
Because of reading this series, I have bought all of Mimi Matthews' books and enjoyed them all. Can't wait to see what she writes next.

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Until just before this past Christmas I hadn’t ever heard of Mimi Matthews never saw her books but then I came across one and now I’ve read ALL of her books in the last few weeks... so naturally I was excited for this one too...

The story goes... once upon a very unhappy time there were 4 orphaned boys living a hard and difficult life in a terrible place. They were all the family each other had and then circumstance separated them. After nearly losing one of their number the other 3 were sent off to apprenticeships in hopes of them finding giving them a future. 1 went missing, 1 became a solider and the other an infamous solicitor. Years later 3 of them were reunited as adults and through many struggles all carved lives out for themselves and even managed to find love and they located their lost 4th member. This Christmas for the first time they are all together for a family holiday with their new wives and family....

Neville is the only unmarried one if the group left standing not that he’s interested in such. After the accident as a child that nearly cost him his life he has trouble articulating his words so he prefers the company of animals not young ladies. Until of course a young lady somehow grabs his attention. Clara arrives as a companion to one of the members of the party and she has no interest in anything other than her own future. And that of her brother who she is working hard to support. He’s away at school and she must help their mother to pay for his education all the while she seeks to better herself by learning everything that her brother learns. It was working out perfectly well until suddenly things change and she can’t understand why. The last thing she is interested in is getting involved with anyone.

Too bad for both of them that they have an instant connection whether they want it or not. Two people who want more from their lives than they feel they are able to achieve who bond over a love of animals. Clara doesn’t mind that Neville has trouble speaking she knows that doesn’t make him any less intelligent as a woman she’s use to people thinking her less intelligent so she doesn’t seek to underestimate others. All she really wants is to have an education of her own and a life her own not burdened by guilt and regret.

When news that the trouble with her brother isn’t just her paranoid imagination Clara must leave the party early in order to see what’s going on with him. And if she can somehow fix it. For years she’s been working so hard to give him everything because she feels her own misjudgment may have cost him. Neville is of course devastated that she has to leave and that they will likely never see each other again. He hasn’t left traveled far from his home so he feels stuck in his own little world where he’s safe. But he’s no longer satisfied with the safe and familiar after meeting Clara. So he resolves to do something to change everything.

I feel so bad for Clara and can’t understand how her family treats her especially her brother. They are just awful no redeeming qualities to them at all. I never understand how families will just believe the words of others like they did in her situation. From the way she felt about it I had expected that she had actually done something, when really she was suffering for nothing. And maybe I just can’t understand the people of the time period but for her brother to not actually know that she wanted to learn or that she was capable at all was crazy to me. Her family really sucked. I suppose at least it was only 4 years she wasted as opposed to her whole lifetime? Yeah it’s not much better at all but at least in the end she was freed from those awful people.

And of course because this is romance Neville faces his fears so that both he and Clara can have their happily ever after as the last of our four orphans finds his lady love and we arrive at the end of their quite compelling story.

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Neville is one of four friends who grew up together in a harsh orphanage. Due to an accident as a child, Neville has a speech impediment which causes people to assume he is slow witted, which in turn, causes Neville to be anxious around strangers. Even his friends feel he needs protecting. However Neville is the best kind of hero: intelligent, kind, thoughtful (as well as handsome!). Clara is a paid companion to an elderly lady who is visiting, along with her family, the home of Neville’s friend where Neville works and lives. Right from the start, Clara is different. She’s been given an elderly pug to care for. Not only does she care for the old, snoring dog, but she loves him. Clara has dreams of being her brother’s secretary after he finishes his studies at Cambridge. Neville and Clara see each others’ beauty and worth which makes the transition from friendship to love heartwarming and sweet.

The story also shows how society did not believe women capable or worthy of being scholars.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an ARC.

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I'dIn the fourth and final installment of Mimi Matthews' Parish Orphans of Devon series, "The Winter Companion", Neville Cross finds love. Although Nigel considers himself an unlikely candidate for romantic love, Clara Hartright sees beyond his speech impediment to the wonderful person he is. An event in Clara's past has distorted her belief in herself and her judgment of men's motives. Nigel is a swoon-worthy hero, and Clara is a delightful heroine.

The four orphans are celebrating Christmas at Justin Thornhill's estate, the first time the men have been together as a group since they were children. Neville and Clara bond over a shared love of animals. It's sweet to see the two wounded souls become two lovely souls destined to be together.

It was wonderful to visit with all the orphans one last time. Each has managed to overcome a horrific childhood to find love, contentment and fulfillment. In addition, I'd never heard of Dartmoor ponies; this book prompted me to read more about them online. Matthews has a wonderful way of drawing her characters. They are nuanced, not all good, not all bad, but importantly, NOT cookie cutter. Clara's brother Simon surprised me. To better understand the backstories of orphans Justin, Tom, Alex and Neville, I recommend reading the books in order.

Mimi Matthews has an altogether beautiful writing style. While I am sad this marvelous series has come to an end, I look forward to Matthews' future work.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this enjoyable novel.

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Thank you net galley for the advance reader copy of this novel. This is the fourth book in a series of Victorian era romances--each book dealing with one of the orphans of a village. This was a delightful clean read and I was so glad that Neville got his happily ever after!!!! I do hope the author does a book 5 for chsravtsr, Teddy. The writing moved the plot very well and it was nice to see past characters appear again. I love Mimi Mathews as an author and will gratefully read anything else by her. Well done to close this set of characters.

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When a lady’s companion with a lot of unspoken things meets a man of few words who reawakens feelings she buried when she was too trusting...

The more I read Mrs Mimi Matthews, the more I love her magic brush with words and her easiness at painting larger than life characters.
I read the previous book in this series, and now I have the two firsts waiting on my shelves.

While reading Alex and Laura, I had a glimpse of the four orphans’ life and how life made them part ways.
And now, they are all reunited under the same roof some decades later.
Except Neville, all have found love along their route. But he has accepted it might not be for him, his disability preventing him to see himself as worthy of love.
In some way, they were at a time lucky as fate intervened and saved them from a worst destiny.
But when they moved in their life, Neville is still struck in the same place where it all started.
Clara’s past gullibility put her in this place, having to leave everything behind and trade her romantic old self for a more pragmatic one, with few dreams and only acceptable expectancies.
While her past is very slowly revealed, the true Clara is also not far away, but she fights her old hopes and tries to find contentment in her new fabricated attentes.
Mrs Mimi Matthews brings together two people life has broken in the inside. Why they are wary of going out of their comfort zone or expecting more for themselves.
She gives them time to reflect on their past and the future awaiting them, so when life catches up with them, while Clara follows the flow, but as a woman she has few other options, It is up to Neville to take his future in his hands, leave the safe road and have faith he will fall upon the right path.

This wondrous tale deserves no less than five stars, Mrs Mimi Matthews offers with this last in a series, a condensate of the power of love and friendship as it makes people alters their life’s course to fight for their bonds.

I was granted an advance copy by the publisher through Netgalley and prior to it I preordered my own.
Here is my true and unbiased opinion.

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A man with a speech disability meets a woman in search of her place in the world. A lovely Victorian tale of love and fulfillment

“The Winter Companion” brings Mimi Mathew’s Parish Orphans of Devon series to a sweet and thought-provoking close. The book is standalone, but the whole series is excellent and I recommend reading them all.

Confined to an orphanage, friends Justin, Tom, Alex and Neville faced a traumatic childhood deprived of almost everything but found in each other strength to cope with life. They often sought adventure and mischief by climbing the treacherous cliffs of Greyfriar’s Abbey. One day, while climbing down, young Neville Cross lost his balance, crashed his head and fell into the ocean down below never to be the same person again.

Now adults, the friends reunite in Greyfriar’s Abbey (currently owned by Justin) to celebrate Christmas. In the meantime, Neville is struck by the realization that, due to the speech issues that followed his accident, he stayed frozen in place with no future or perspectives while his friends lives moved on.

Neville’s character is very complex and utterly adorable. He is vulnerable but at the same time strong. It is hard for him to communicate with words, but his actions speak for themselves, and show the unmistakable goodness of his heart. His mind is sound, and it is painful to see how the speech struggles change the perception other people have of him.

The romance takes place when Clara Hartwright, the companion to one of the guests of the Christmas party, comes to the stables to ask Neville to take care of her old pug dog Bertie. Clara is strong and caring and has to work to maintain herself and also to pay for her brother’s studies. She has academic aspirations and, like Neville, a true love for animals.

It is a slow burn romance, but it is so worth the wait. The reader is invited to witness their first meeting, their friendship, and how they slowly get to know each other and see each other’s true selves.

Once again, Mimi Mathews crafts a beautiful tale of true love and the quest for a fulfilling life.

Disclosure: I have received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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“«I don’t need things to be different. And I certainly don’t need you to be different. I love you exactly as you are.»” (Clara to Neville, quote from ARC)

4.5 stars.
This is such a lovely, beautifully written historical novel about a wounded hero, afflicted by a seldom fictionalized condition, and the heroine whom he befriends and falls head over heels in love with.
Neville is such a delight to read, his blond good looks and big size playing with his “flaws” and insecurities, making him both sexy and adorably vulnerable. A teddy bear with compassion and kindness, the strength of a giant and the sense of honor of Galahad.
Mimi Matthews’ characterization of a male character suffering the lingering effects of a traumatic brain injury is realistic, convincing and thorough. Never does the author forget her hero is living daily with this condition. What an amazing insight into its effects in speech, intellection and thought processes, language and attention! And the feelings of anxiety, inferiority, shame and inadequacy it brings.
Neville is also attractive in a modern way because of the wild ponies’s cause. The same happens with Clara, the heroine, and her intellectual curiosity and hunger for knowledge.
The author’s prose is great too, clear, concise, painting in brisk strokes and short sentences the enchanted landscapes of Devon or the slow, tentative meeting of two guarded souls.
“The Winter Companion” (Perfectly Proper Press) was my favorite of the series and I’ve enjoyed meeting again the characters from the previous stories and hope to read about other characters, such as Teddy.

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I enjoyed this love story so much I finished it in one sitting! The setting was well-researched and the main characters given very real struggles. I got flashes of Little Women while reading about the dilemmas of the period, the costume details, and the thrill of the intense Devon weather! The married couples have a bit of smugness about them, but this is balanced by the vein of sadness from living through trauma that they all quietly honor. I did have a bit of trouble sorting out who was whom in the first few chapters, since I hadn't read any of the series before, but after giving up on these background couples, the central plot could shine on its own: two hesitant lovers finding the courage to outgrow their self-made prisons and risk their hearts for love. And Clara and Neville succeeded splendidly! A wonderful, uplifting story of overlooked lives given center stage. Highly recommend for a happy-ending read.

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While reading this series I felt I was transported back in time. I finished this installment in one day as I did not want to stop reading. I love the tone and style of writing style: well-paced, unrushed, and sufficiently descriptive I felt I was standing in the off, watching the action unfold.
All four parish orphans are united in Devon for the holidays, but this is Neville's much deserved story.
Neville avoids people due to his speech impediment, but he and Clara grow close in their mutual interest and love of animals. Clara is a strong and pragmatic young woman; revisited by her past, she proves her mettle.
I read a free advance copy; the thoughts expressed are my own.

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Be still, my heart! Neville gets a chance to show us why his friends love him so much and have stood by him, through thick and thin. Clara gets the chance to see this as well, and despite her determination to protect her heart and guard her mouth, she can’t help herself from opening up to Neville. Neville is not a simpleton; he is a man. A kind, compassionate, and strong man who sees Clara for the woman she is. A delightful culmination of the Parish Orphans and the women who showed them how to love and live again. I could not have asked for a happier ending. While Neville and Clara’s story can be read and enjoyed as a standalone, it is so much more sweet and fulfilling when all the stories are understood as woven together.
I received a complimentary copy of this book and all opinions expressed are solely my own.

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What a great conclusion to the series!

I must confess I underestimated Neville in the first book. I didn't think he'd have a story of his own and get a chance to play the hero, but I'm so glad he did.

With each book in the series, we've seen the role Neville plays in the group and especially to Justin. His accident has affected his speech and he's not confident in social situations. He's much more at easy with animals, who understand his kindness and don't expect anything from him.

Clara is a companion to an old lady, and she comes to Devon for the Winter holiday. She's been through a scandal and doesn't want to draw attention to herself but, at the same time, Clara has ambitions and is a strong person.

It's Neville's kindness toward animals that first attracts Clara to him, and in turn, her radiant personality (despite her social situation) attracts him to her. They are so different but so perfect for each other.

I don't want to give spoilers, but when he comes to her rescue... *SWOON* What a scene!

I loved the ending and I love knowing there will be some novellas and site stories on other characters.

Amazing series and book! Read these in order, you won't be disappointed.

I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley and this is my honest opinion.

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Yet again, Mimi Matthews delivers a deliciously addictive and wonderfully written love story. This time, we delve into the lives of Neville Cross and Clara Hartwright. If you've been following the Parish Orphans of Devon series, then you've already had glimpses of Neville. Of all the boys (now men) who'd grown up together in the orphanage, I was always most curious about Neville, especially considering the injury he'd sustained from his fall from the cliffs. We get more insight into his life and how his BTI has affected him and the choices he's made along the way.

With the coming Christmas holidays as the backdrop, Matthews sets the stage for a very nice slow-burn love story. We have Neville, painfully shy at times and more at home outdoors than in drawing rooms making small talk, and Clara, a paid companion to Mrs. Bainbridge who longs to learn and know more--but held back because of her gender and a secret from her past. Already from their first meeting, thanks to an elderly pug called Bertie, we know that Neville and Clara are meant to be. The question is how will it come to pass. And their path to love is very satisfying.

There are so many things that I loved about The Winter Companion: the richness of the setting, how Matthews weaves in the cast of characters we recognize from previous books in the series, how even the secondary characters come across as fully realized people and not simply as props... I could go on. But the most important factor for me in loving this book was how Matthews writes about Neville and his brain trauma injury. Gaining insight into how it has affected his life and how he's tried to deal with well as the initial resentment he felt at being the one left behind...made me as a reader feel such empathy for him and gave me a better understanding of why Neville never strayed far from the abbey.

I also enjoyed that Matthews allows us time to get to know Neville and Clara. They're complex characters and having the chance to find out how life's experiences made them who they are gave even more depth to their story.

If you like historical romance, then I think you'll love the Winter Companion. For me, reading this book was pure pleasure. Highly recommended!

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If you need me, I’ll be in a pile of mush over here. I knew from the previous Parrish Orphans book that I would love Neville and I was not wrong. I honestly don’t think Matthews can write a hero that I don’t love, but Neville is special guys. You HAVE to meet him for yourself. That being said, I can’t believe the series is over. What am I going to do now? Need. More. Books.

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This was such a lovely romance. Sweet and believable, the main characters are well fleshed out. I love the way the author weaves history into the narrative to tell the story of a woman who longs for more than she is born to and a many who is so much more interesting that the typical “rake” of most period romances. I read the entire thing in an evening.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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Each time I read a book by Mimi Matthews, I learn something about human nature that is both refreshing and comforting. Yes, she includes the negative in her stories too, like greed, arrogance, and ignorance. However, she also includes things like compassion, courage, and strength. What I loved most about this story was the lesson of overcoming fear and putting others ahead of yourself. It was rewarding to read about characters who had a difficult past, found each other, and overcame their insecurities to better their lives. Very moving and a great way to wrap up this series.

In a world where any infirmity, no matter how small, is looked upon with scorn and as a sign of stupidity, Neville Cross felt very isolated. After experiencing a head injury as a child, he has trouble concentrating for long periods of time, and his speech is stilted in a way that makes smooth conversation difficult. There's nothing wrong with his intelligence though, and it has become increasingly frustrating that he can't win the confidence of others beyond his close friends. He begins to see a future, though, when he meets Clara Hartwright during his family's Christmas celebration. Clara works as a companion, having been thrown into spinsterhood after a youthful indiscretion. Now in a life of penitence, constantly making up for the strain she has put on her mother and brother, she sends most of her earnings to her family. Meeting Neville is a breath of fresh air for her, because he doesn't judge her for her station, and his way of speech is no both in the slightest. Soon they begin spending more time together, but it won't last, for once Christmas passes, Clara will be gone, and Neville will be left alone once again.

Neville was a character who really tugged at my heart from the first meeting. It's awful how something as simple as a difference in speech can cause someone to be looked at as inferior or stupid, even if they are nothing of the kind. Neville loved animals, took care of them, and when he saw sadness in Clara, he wanted to do everything he could to make her happy. Hesitant at first, expecting her to treat him as poorly as others had, he became more confident as she began to return his affections. It was heartbreaking when Neville realized that he was trapped on the estate by society and his own fear of them, and so they had no future together. Clara loved Neville, saw only the good in him, and she let him go when she had to. But it was so painful for her, because she truly loved him and knew he loved her. Thankfully, as in most romance books that I read, there is a happy ending. The journey to get there is an emotional one but well worth it.

Mimi Matthews is an author to watch for anyone who wants an emotionally charged romance. It was a warm and welcoming read.

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And here I was, thinking the third book would be my favorite of the Orphans series – I was mistaken! This takes a place among my favorites of Mimi’s books. A veritable giant of a man who treats animals kindly and is pretty to look at, and a studious, determined, progressive Victorian lady protagonist who just wants to catalog flora and fauna? I was so in. And interestingly enough, the afterword was one of the best parts of the book?

I’m not sure if I remarked upon it in my review of the last book, A Convenient Fiction, but Mimi has consistently gone above and beyond in inclusion, to feature progressive heroines and out-of-the-ordinary heroes (a scarred war hero, a morally-gray-at-times lawyer, a traumatized gambler), and tackling ableism and similar issues in male characters of her most recent books. In Fiction, we first met Laura’s brother, who is wheelchair-bound after a bad illness. Neville, the male lead of this book, we’ve seen and heard a bit from; he suffered a bad fall and head injury, from which he didn’t recover completely in terms of brain trauma, and it left him with a speech impediment that comes and goes.

I am so incredibly impressed with Mimi’s ability to give us fulfilling, swoon-worthy romances that nevertheless address serious societal issues and a full range of humanity in her romantic leads. I'm sad to see this series end.

Her scholarship and compassion bleed off the page, and I love it. Her afterwords always rush to explain a real moment in history or Victorian trend she’s presented in the book, and I learn so much even as I’m enjoying a cute romance, it’s awesome. For example, in this book our lead Clara conducts a “shadow-studying” of her brother’s Cambridge courses, a cultural phenomenon where young women were sent back copies of notes and other learning material from their male relatives’ programs – and which her hard-earned wages pay for. I had never heard of this, and was delighted to hear of it. Clara herself, a heavy reader and devoted student, was simply a brilliant protagonist, relatable to modern times and yet set with this plausible, true-to-history situation. So well done.

I appreciated Mimi’s remarks on dealing with a traumatic brain injury of her own, and how this influenced writing Neville, who is utterly sweet and charming; her disclaimer that every injury, reaction, treatment, and subsequent experience is different really covered her bases and as a result, Neville’s sometime-difficulties as a plot point never felt offensive. Clara is a compassionate counterpart who never babies him or makes it weird, and their relationship felt genuine.

Overall, this was just…a fantastic book all around. Another enthusiastic recommendation from me!

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5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was so excited to get this because she tells the most wonderful romantic tales!
This was quite different from her others in the sense that, Mr Cross is a different man than the rest. Physically he’s big and beautifully handsome and probably the kindest of the four men, but he’s suffered a brain injury. Neville ended up being one of my favorites of the men. I swooned over his looks and kindness. The story was wonderful.
I really enjoyed the fact that none of the “couples” could keep their hands off each other. It was so sweet.
Things I loved:
• The chemistry
• The romance
• Their love of animals and books
• Neville and his letter
• The Christmas parts
I just preordered Gentleman Jim! ♥️

This was a NETGALLEY gift and I already purchased this book on Amazon weeks ago and all opinions are my own.

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For the last of her Parish Orphans of Devon series, Mimi Matthews (A Convenient Fiction) gives us the story of Neville and Clara- a sweet romance and story of bravery and love overcoming fear and the restrictions that we place on ourselves. We've known Neville for the entire series- a gentle, quiet man who's childhood accident was, in many ways, the catalyst to the four friends becoming who they are today. Neville's head injury left him with difficulties speaking sometimes, and his self-consciousness over how he must appear to outsiders led him to a retiring life focused more on spending time with animals rather than people. He's seen his friends meet their matches and has begun to wonder if he can have more in life when he meets Clara. A ladies companion, Clara wants more out of her life- she wants knowledge and learning and to be useful. Her goal is to be her brother's assistant when he's finished at Cambridge.

A Winter Companion spoke to me in a lot of ways, and touched me in ways other books haven't. As a sufferer from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) myself, I had an easy time identifying with Neville. His frustrations and difficulties when he would lose words or drift off and lose time were things I experience myself- and Matthews does a wonderful job of sensitively and naturally showing readers what Neville deals with every day. He begins to want more than what he has, but isn't sure he can reach for it. What if he fails? Is it better to stay safe and at home, not risking anything, but not being completely content? Clara also shines as a woman trying to fit the mold that circumstances and society tell her she needs to fill: an invisible companion who has no dreams of a larger life using her intellect. Life has taught her not to expect anything: no help from family, no friends, no romance, and no dreams.

Neville and Clara become the right people in the right place at the right time for each other, and Matthews did a lovely job of slowly and naturally growing their romance and their confidence in themselves. There were no murderers to catch here, no evil villains to overcome. Instead, Neville and Clara have to overcome something even harder: their own fears and to decide if love is enough to try to dream new dreams, and if love itself can open new doors to new dreams even grander than they might have imagined alone.

Although book 4 in a series, A Winter Companion can also be a stand alone book. Readers who've enjoyed the rest of the series will get to see Justin, Alex, and Tom again, and happily close the circle on the friends and their happily ever afters, but new readers won't feel lost among the characters. This was a sensitive and lovely book, and a definite must read.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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I have slowly been falling in love with Neville since the first book in this series. In my opinion, he's the glue that holds these four friends together. I'm sure he holds a special place in all of our hearts. He's one of the most endearing characters I've ever encountered in my years of reading.

Years ago, Neville was involved in an accident that resulted in a brain injury which has affected his speech. It hasn't been easy to deal with. People think he's slow and, for lack of a better word, dumb. But that's far from the case. Neville is actually pretty smart. He just has a hard time forming his thoughts into words and expressing them. His condition seems to get worse when he's in stressful situations, he's upset or... when he's around Clara.

Clara lost her teaching position after a scandal involving her rocked her little village. She was forced into letting all her dreams go and become a lady's companion. If her past has taught her anything, it's to become invisible. She doesn't need another scandal derailing the only dream she has left, becoming a secretary to her brother once he completes his schooling. Meeting Neville was never in her plans.

From the moment Neville and Clara meet, there's an instant connection that neither one of them can deny. However, they both know that nothing can ever happen between them. Neville can't leave the abbey and Clara is only visiting for a month with her new employer. But the more time they spend together, the closer they become and the more their feelings start to grow.

As their time together comes to a close, Neville will need to decide if saying goodbye is what's best for both of them or if their love is strong enough to see them through whatever obstacles life may throw at them, together.

*dreamy sigh*

Oh how I loved Neville and Clara! If anyone deserved a HEA, it's these two! I loved watching their relationship grow from friendship into something more. Both of them had insecurities that were hard to face. But together they had all the love, courage, strength and determination they needed to face anything life had in store for them.

What an amazing ending to a fantastic series! I have loved spending time with the Parish Orphans of Devon and their wives! This series will be a must read over and over again. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves Victorian romance!

I am seriously loving all the books of Ms. Matthews I have read. She has quickly become a favorite and an auto-buy author for me. I can't wait to see what she has in store for us next!

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What a beautiful book! This author is so talented! My heart went to both characters' stories. Love to see all friends reunited! Read all the books in the series and enjoyed all of them! I can't wait for the nexr series!!!

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The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews is a beautiful historical fiction I'd highly recommend. It centers around Clara, a lady's companion who longs to have the same opportunities as men and be able to go to university, and Neville, a gentle but kind giant who has a heart of gold and a speech impediment. The friendship to romance in the story was so sweet and well done. The main characters really complimented each other and understood who the other was as a person.

This is book four of a series, but I was completely fine having never read the others. As a reader you meet the other couples from the previous books but are never made to feel like you are out of the loop having not read books 1-3.

I really enjoyed this novel and will look out for any others that may come afterwards, since I'd love to have another glimpse of Clara and Neville's life.

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Author: Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Pages: 316
On Sale: February 2020
Genre: Romance, HIstorical Fiction
Stars: 5/5

From the Publisher:

She Needed to be Seen…

As a lady’s companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that’s precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it’s far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a month-long holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she’d hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He Wanted to be Heard…

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady’s companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do?

I received an early reading copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a review. I have never read anything by Mimi Matthews before, and I was blown away. I read the entire book in a Sunday afternoon and it felt like comfort food. It may have been a bit predictable, but it was warm and inviting and the romance was sweet and just what I had hoped for. I have not read the other books in this series, and while they are also probably enjoyable, this read just fine as a stand-alone. The characters didn’t blur together like I’ve found jumping into other series, they stood out just fine on their own. Overall, it was lovely.

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'All she'd known was that she wanted nothing more than the formidable safety of his arms.'

Mimi Matthews brings us the last book in her 'Parish Orphans of Devon' series and now I am so sad that there aren't any more books in this series. A friend recommended Mimi Matthews to me last month and I quickly read the first three books in this series and found them absolutely wonderful. This one is Neville Cross's story. Sweet, strong Neville. We find all four men, former orphans who were treated so despicably by the orphanage director, together for a winter reunion. Justin, Thornhill, Tom Finchley, and Alex Archer are all married happily and Neville feels his life will always be what it is now: living on Justin's property caring for the horses and animals. He loves the animals and he loves his friends, but deep inside he yearns for more.

Clara Hartwright is at the Thornhill's for the winter reunion, serving as a companion to Mrs. Bainbridge. Clara wants nothing but to remain invisible in order to keep her stormy past in the past. But she soon discovers that there is something about Neville that she is mightily touched by.

As we watch Neville trying to back away from Clara, fearing he will be frowned upon because of his inability to speak everything on his heart because of a traumatic injury in his youth, we watch love unfold and blossom between these two sensitive souls, it is the most precious thing to behold. I wept several times during the reading of this book. Neville is a most wonderful hero, in this reader's opinion. His heart is enormous! It's as if God created these two especially for one another. And Mimi Matthews' weaving of this tale together is magnificent. I was captivated by her writing, as I was during the first three books in the series. She deftly moves through the story, carrying the reader along feeling every emotion in these characters' hearts. I dearly wished this series didn't have to end. I loved every single moment of these books. Well done! Highly recommended.

*My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via Net Galley. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Reading Progress

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Mimi Matthews has become an auto-buy author to me! I loved seeing all the characters from the past three books in the series together in this one and Neville gets all my heart eyes. :) I loved this finale to Matthews' orphan series and I can't wait to see what she writes next.

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I loved this whole series, which reminded me of the gothic romances I loved as a young girl in the ‘70s, but updated to eliminate some of the rather dated and problematic aspects of the genre. I’ve had a soft spot for Neville since the first novel and I was thrilled to see him get his time in the spotlight. This book was a joy from cover to cover. Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC copy for my review.

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After reading the first book in this series and being introduced to Neville, the quiet one, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a teenager, I knew that his book was the one I most wanted to read. Neville was a wonderful hero, outwardly quiet, yet inwardly he had plenty of thoughts, hopes and dreams. He just isn't sure how to go about making a life for himself independent of his friends until he meets Clara who inspires him to dream of a bigger life than the one he's currently leading. I loved Clara also. She had big dreams that were constrained by the expectations placed on women in Victorian times as well as by the circumstances she found herself in. She worked as a paid companion to earn enough money to pay for her younger brother's Cambridge education, while hoping all the while that she'd eventually find a place as his secretary so that she could at least be adjacent to the research that she longed to conduct herself.

Once Neville and Clara meet at a month-long Xmas house party thrown at the Abbey, it's like two kindred souls recognizing the other half that will complete them. They are so clearly meant for each other that it gives them both the courage to reach out and finally take control of their own lives. This book left me with a happy glow. I also loved all of the period details that the author threw in. So many historicals are just wallpaper in regards to their setting whereas this one took the time to get the details right.

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*Puedes encontrar esta reseña en español al final.*

I know I sound like a broken record, but Ms. Matthews has become my favorite author of historical romance. Due as much for her slow and sweet romances as for her interesting and original characters as for her, almost millimeter, historical accuracy.
If we add to all of the above that, in this series, The Orphans of Devon, only one MC belongs to the nobility, this is already the icing on the cake. Finding in "historical-romancelandia" a story that does not have a duke, an earl, a baron and the likes is difficult. Finding a series is impossible. Except, of course, this one.

This is the last book in the series, and it is the only one in which all the previous characters make an appearance, I imagine that as a tribute or farewell, so, although the main story between Clara and Neville could be read as a stand-alone, there will be a compendium of secondary characters which will be difficult to enjoy if the previous stories have not been read.

Neville has been my favorite character from the beginning. His story is somewhat dark, secret, the author has always made us understand that he was the most fragile of all the orphans, and although he has appeared in all the stories, he is the least known, so I was very interested in read more about him.

As in the previous books, the romance is sweet, slow and full of nuances. This author always takes her MC´s out of their comfort zone and forces them to face their fears and take charge of their life. And she does it in a natural way, not forced and within the reality of the time.
And despite the fact that this series is starred by the four orphans, I can't help thinking that it is the heroines that really manage the story, the ones that release the orphans from their past and give them a future that they didn´t dreamed of. And along the way, they (the heroines) get what they had wanted throughout all their lives, which is nothing other than being mistress of their own destiny. And doing so in such a subtle and realistic way in the Victorian era is a demonstration of Ms. Matthews' literary quality.

By the way, the historical notes that the author gifts us at the end of each book, and which put the story in perspective, are priceless. They are simply wonderful.

**e-ARC kindly provided by Perfectly Proper Press via Netgalley.**

Ya sé que parezco un disco rayado, pero la señora Matthews se ha convertido en mi autora favorita de romance histórico. Tanto por sus romances lentos y dulces como por sus personajes tan interesantes y originales como por su precisión, casi milimétrica, histórica.
Si a todo esto le añadimos que, en esta serie, Los Huérfanos de Devon, sólo una protagonista pertenece a la nobleza, esto ya es la guinda del pastel. Encontrar en "romance-histórico-landia" una historia que no tenga un duque, conde, barón (etc…) es difícil. Encontrar una serie es imposible. Salvo esta, claro.

Este es el último libro de la serie, y es en el único en el que aparecen todos los personajes anteriores, imagino que, como homenaje o despedida, así que, aunque la historia principal entre Clara y Neville se podría leer sin problemas, sí que va a haber un compendio de secundarios difícil de entender si no se han leído las anteriores.

Neville ha sido mi personaje favorito desde el principio. Su historia es un tanto oscura, secreta, la autora siempre nos ha dado a entender que era el más frágil de todos los huérfanos, y a pesar de que ha aparecido en todas las historias, es del que menos sabíamos, así que estaba muy interesada en leer más sobre él.

Como en los libros anteriores, el romance es precioso, lento y lleno de matices. Esta autora siempre saca a sus protagonistas de su zona de confort y los obliga a hacer frente a sus miedos y a tomar las riendas de su vida. Y lo hace de una manera natural, nada forzada y dentro de la realidad de la época.
Y a pesar de que esta serie la protagonizan los cuatro huérfanos, no puedo dejar de pensar que son las heroínas las que realmente manejan la historia, las que liberan a los huérfanos de su pasado y les dan un futuro con el que ninguno soñaba. Y por el camino, ellas consiguen lo que habían deseado durante toda su vida, que no es otra cosa que ser dueñas de su destino. Y hacerlo de una manera tan sutil y realista en la época victoriana es una demostración de la calidad literaria de la señora Matthews.

Por cierto, las notas históricas que la autora nos regala al final de cada libro, y que ponen en perspectiva la historia, no tienen precio. Son, simplemente, maravillosas.

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I adored Mimi Matthews's fourth installment from her Parish Orphans of Devon series, The Winter Companion. It deserves a five plus stars.

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