I am happy to welcome bestselling author Mimi Matthews to Austenprose today for an exclusive interview in celebration of her latest Victorian romance, Fair as a Star, which just released this week.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with many of Mimi’s novel’s that we have reviewed in the past—all 5 Star reviews!
- A Holiday by Gaslight
- A Modest Independence
- The Work of Art
- A Convenient Fiction
- The Winter Companion
Fair as a Star is a novella in a new series, the Victorian Romantics, set in the English countryside in the 1860s. I was curious about the book’s origins and what else we can look forward to from this talented historical romance author.
I hope you enjoy our interview and read Fair as a Star, which in true Matthews’s style, takes you away to a different time and place, and wraps us up in a lovely love story.
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?
Welcome, Mimi. Congratulations on the publication of your eleventh book, Fair as a Star. Can you share the inspiration for your new novella?
Thanks so much, Laurel Ann! I’m so happy to be here. My inspiration for Fair as a Star came from my own experiences with depression, and from seeing so many friends and colleagues who deal with varying degrees of the illness.
I wanted to write about a Victorian heroine who was living with clinical depression. To show how those around her respond, and to explore what a happily-ever-after might look like for her. I was also really excited to write a clergyman hero who was struggling with an unrequited love.
Could you introduce us to your two main characters? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
The heroine of Fair as a Star is Beryl Burnham. She has a gift for embroidery, specifically whitework (white thread on white fabric). One of her strengths is her love for her family and her willingness to make sacrifices for them. That willingness can be a weakness too, since it means she often puts their happiness before her own.
Like Beryl, hero Mark Rivenhall loves his family. As the village curate, he also has a deep commitment to his parishioners. His compassion is one of his greatest strengths. At the beginning of the novel, he sees his unrequited love for Beryl as a weakness. She’s engaged to his brother, so his feelings are far from ideal.
Who was your favorite minor character in Fair as a Star, and might we meet them again in another future novel?
The heroine’s horse-mad sister, Winnifred Burnham, was my favorite minor character—and probably the most autobiographical of any character I’ve written. Winnifred is the heroine of the next book in my Victorian Romantics series.
Fair as a Star is the first book in your new Victorian Romantics series. Can you share your concept for the series? What we might look forward to regarding future novels?
My Victorian Romantics series is a series of three linked Victorian romance novellas set in the 1860s English countryside. Each of the titles was inspired by a line from a Romantic-era poem. Fair as a Star takes its name from William Wordsworth’s She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways. The first story is Beryl’s. The second belongs to Winnifred, and the third to Henry Rivenhall. The second novella should be out early next year (I hope!).
Besides swoon-worthy heroes and admirable heroines, we can always depend on period-accurate details in your novels. What is your research process, and do you let family and friends into your library?
It really depends on the book. I use whatever’s necessary—from old medical texts to fashion magazines and farming manuals. Generally, I use primary sources. In my personal library, however, I have lots of books on Victorian history, including some gorgeous oversize hardbacks on stately homes and jewelry, which are very inspiring to flip through. My family and friends don’t find them as interesting as I do, I’m afraid.
What was your favorite reference book? What surprising tidbits of history have you discovered?
I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite reference book since I rely so much on primary sources, however, the Victorian Web is an absolute treasure trove of information about the period. I also really like Whores of Yore for information on the history of sex.
There are so many fascinating tidbits out there on Victorian history. One of the most interesting (and disturbing) to me, as a cat lover, was an old advertisement I found for “a lady executioner for cats.” Basically, a woman who would chloroform people’s cats for them if the cat was sickly, or if the family was moving away and leaving the cats behind. I made an oblique reference to this practice in Fair as a Star.
You have written one Regency-era historical romance, The Work of Art, which won the HOLT Medallion Award for outstanding literary talent in the Historical category. Congratulations! Will we be seeing additional Regency romances novels from you in the future (begs one Jane Austen fan).
Thank you! I was so thrilled to learn that The Work of Art had won the HOLT Medallion. I’m revisiting the Regency for my upcoming novel Gentleman Jim. It’s set primarily in 1817. After that, I’m back to the Victorian era. I love it too much to part from it for long.
In your nonfiction book, A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, you describe vintage clothing and fashion brilliantly. Have you ever dressed up in period-accurate attire and attended a ball or event? If so, what was it like being laced into a corset?
Oddly enough, I’ve never dressed in period-accurate 19th-century costume (not yet, anyway). However, I used to wear a lot of vintage 1940s suits and dresses to work. And, in my twenties, I often attended the Renaissance Faire in costume.
If you could time-travel to any era and have tea with anyone, who would it be? What burning questions would you ask them?
Oh gosh, that’s tough. I think I might go back to the 1850s for tea with Charlotte Brontë. I’m not sure what I’d ask her, but I know I’d encourage her not to marry Arthur Bell Nicholls. She’s an author that I really wish hadn’t died so early in her career.
Have you read any books lately that knocked your socks off and can recommend to your readers?
I’ve been really lucky to read advance copies of some lovely books this year. The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan is a stunning piece of historical fiction set in post-World War II England. I also enjoyed The Light at Wyndcliff, an upcoming Regency novel by Sarah Ladd; and The Memory House by Jenetta James, a dual timeline novel partially set in Victorian England.
You have a novel in the queue, Gentleman Jim, that releases on November 3, 2020, one of the most highly anticipated books of the Fall historical romance lineup. Can you share with your readers what we might expect?
Gentleman Jim is the most Heyer-esque of all my novels. It’s filled with romance, adventure, revenge, and mistaken identities. There’s also a duel, and a highwayman or two. I wrote the first draft many years ago, around the same time I wrote my Regency novel The Work of Art. Fun fact: Gentleman Jim was originally called Gentleman Jack, but by the time I got around to revising my manuscript, the HBO series of the same name had come out, so I renamed my novel Gentleman Jim.
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.
- “Beryl and Mark firmly planted themselves in my heart from the very beginning. I absolutely adored them.”—Aimee, Getting Your Read On
- “Lovely, romantic, and uplifting.”—Lu, Lu’s Reviews
- “What can I say about this utterly entrancing novella by Mimi Matthews? It’s beautiful, poignant, heartfelt, moving and deeply romantic.”—Rel, Relz Reviewz
Austenprose is delighted to be participating
in the blog tour of Fair as a Star.
Learn more about the tour and follow along with us.
Join the virtual online blog tour of FAIR AS A STAR, Mimi Matthews’ new historical romance, July 14 through July 18, 2020, organized by Amy Bruno at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
- July 14 Passages to the Past (Review)
- July 15 Austenprose (Interview)
- July 15 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review)
- July 15 I’m All About Books (Feature)
- July 15 Probably at the Library (Review)
- July 16 Library of Clean Reads (Review)
- July 17 View from the Birdhouse (Review)
- July 18 The Green Mockingbird (Review)
- July 19 Robin Loves Reading (Review)
- July 20 Historical Fiction with Spirit (Review)
- July 21 Book Bustle (Review)
- July 22 Bookish Rantings (Review)
- July 23 Heidi Reads (Review)
- July 24 The Lit Bitch (Review)
- July 25 What Is That Book About (Feature)
- July 27 Chicks, Rogues and Scandals (Review)
- July 28 Donna’s Book Blog (Review)
Fair as a Star (Victorian Romantics Book 1), by Mimi Matthews
Perfectly Proper Press (July 12, 2020)
Trade paperback & eBook (202) pages
Cover image, book description, and interview courtesy of Perfectly Proper Press © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com