From the desk of Sophia Rose:
With only one other experience reading Mimi Matthew’s work, I have still come to the conclusion that she has a gift for marrying the classical to vintage historical romance. I hadn’t gotten five chapters in before my head was full of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo or Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. No retellings here, but an engaging story of struggle, heartache, and the triumph of love.
Gentleman Jim opens on a terrifying and tragic scene of a stable boy accused of theft from his best friend, the fiery-tempered local squire’s daughter. Nicholas has born trouble from his employer’s son, Frederick Burton-Smythe, who bullies him and from everyone else because he’s the illegitimate son of a tavern wench. But, to be thrashed and then hanged for stealing Maggie Honeywell’s jewels when it was Fred? Perhaps his love with Maggie would have come to nothing since their stations in life were so different, but now escape is his only option leaving Maggie free to marry the baronet’s son as her father always wanted.
Ten years later, Maggie has endured much as a result of her father’s death. His heartbreaking will that will legally force her to marry Fred if she wants to keep the beloved family lands and her inheritance and the further clause that made Fred her guardian and have veto power over any man she may marry to get said inheritance. It is no wonder her health broke and she is a shadow of her once vibrant self. The time allotted is nearly up and her father may win his way after all.
John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare, has spent many years on the Continent, and now he has returned to England in the company of his venerable grandfather, the Earl of Allendale, who insists he settle down and take a wife. He is a matrimonial prize, but, from the moment he encounters a frail Maggie Honeywell, there is only one woman for him. The cost will be great if he fails, but he determines to see his way clear of all the obstacles including the still bullying Fred Burton-Smythe.
The characters and situations are introduced and then the story leaps forward a decade for a reset on characters and situations. Or, is there a connection to what came before? This could have been like many other Regency romances before it in that two characters are attracted when they encounter in London and at subsequent London society events. Both have competition for their hands and both have drawbacks in their homes. However, there is a swashbuckling, roguish quality to it from St. Clare’s actions and personality and Maggie’s own emerging indomitable spirit. I enjoyed the suspense of ‘is he or isn’t he’ when it comes to St. Clare’s mysterious past and I liked the journey he and Maggie took to get to the truth once and for all. The villains were such that I wanted them all to come to a nasty end and that includes St. Clare’s noxious relations. Maggie’s bestie Jane was a brick. I do love how the author slipped in some winning minor characters with their own background story going on.
Oh yes, my instinct that this had a classic connection proved true when I spotted some very familiar situations or even lines to Count of Monte Cristo. I missed the Tom Jones references since I am less familiar with it.
The romance was a growing element that had its own villain, revenge, to contend with making Maggie unsure what would ultimately win out. That epilogue was full of delicious sweetness after all that had come before.
From the well painted Regency backdrop to the sparkling three-dimensional characters and also the winding, tension-filled plot, Gentleman Jim stood and delivered. Those who have delighted in the author’s earlier books will find this has a distinctly different flavor worth savoring and those who come for the first time will see her well-stocked backlist as a joy. Sweet historical romance lovers should snag this one at their first opportunity.
5 out of 5 Stars
- Gentleman Jim: A Tale of Romance and Revenge, by Mimi Matthews
- Perfectly Proper Press (November 10, 2020)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (376) pages
- ISBN: 978-1733056991
- Genre: Regency Romance
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Perfectly Proper Press © 2020; text Sophia Rose © 2020, austenprose.com.