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Parish Orphans of Devon #1

The Matrimonial Advertisement

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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?

348 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 4, 2018

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About the author

Mimi Matthews

20 books2,676 followers
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances, including The Siren of Sussex, a 2023 RUSA Reading List shortlist pick for Best Romance; Fair as a Star, a Library Journal Best Romance of 2020; Gentleman Jim, a Kirkus Best Book of 2020; and The Work of Art, winner of the 2020 HOLT Medallion. Her novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness, 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.

**I only rate the books I love.**

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 941 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel McMillan.
Author 25 books1,059 followers
September 17, 2018
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.
723 reviews306 followers
January 29, 2021
While this may not be a perfect 5-star romance, it's close enough for me to want to round to 5. The author is perhaps the best new HR writer around as far as her attention to detail and historical accuracy. That's always a huge plus. And the second important component of a historical romance is obviously the romance, which I find she has also done very well here.

As I age but still continue to read romance, my preferences on how a romantic relationship is presented continue to change. Not so hot-blooded anymore and much more hormone-deficient, I'm not interested in titillation from sexual encounters. As a matter of fact, if an HR couple take more than 1-2 pages to go from precoital to postcoital in a sex scene, my attention has wandered off and I skip to the post part.

A romance novel has a limited number of pages. I want those spent on actual relationships, and character and romance development, and some interesting historical aspect. Mimi Matthews' new novel has the historical and romantic bits just the way I prefer in an HR.

Heroine Helena Reynolds of London has answered a matrimonial advertisement seeking a wife for a gentleman living an isolated life in Devon. This man is Justin Thornhill, former soldier in India. He needs a wife who can bear solitude, will run his household for him and warm his bed.

Helena wasn't the kind of woman he was expecting. She's too genteel, too pretty, too young, too well dressed and articulate. Why would she possibly want to marry a rather grouchy, gruff ex-soldier with physical and psychological scars?

Well, it's because Helena is looking for only two things: security and a little kindness. She wants to be kept safe. Why? Well, all will be revealed in time. And whatever you might be imaging, it's probably worse than that.

Whatever Helena may be running from, she certainly ran to the right man. "For Justin Thornhill wasn't only a handsome man...He was a good man. Unutterably kind and steadfast and fiercely protective of everyone in his care...Despite his growls and grumbles." Oh, be still my beating heart. I loved this man. I loved this romance. I loved seeing Helena and Justin together.

Bring on the next Parish Orphans book, please. My romance-loving heart is waiting breathlessly.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,147 followers
January 30, 2019
A highly enjoyable Victorian-sensation style romance. There's a Beauty and the Beast set-up--heroine fleeing terrible persecution meets ill-mannered scarred master of remote half-ruined house. However, Justin is about as cinnamon roll as beasts get, and is basically lovely to Helena from the start, albeit struggling with his own feelings of guilt and shame because of his background and past.

It's slightly odd because this is actually a very low-conflict book, both internal (the relationship is utterly sweet and angst-free except for an 'I'm not worthy' moment on the hero's part) and external. There are all the trappings of Victorian Gothic (Beast hero, threat of confinement in a lunatic asylum, storms, lurking villains) but the threat ends up pretty low. That's not a complaint--I really needed a low-angst romance and I enjoyed every minute of this warm, charming book. I just wasn't expecting that from the Gothic plot and trappings. Maybe sweet Gothic is a new genre, in which case sign me the hell up. Can't wait for #2.
Profile Image for Sofia.
258 reviews6,497 followers
June 11, 2021
yOu'Re ToO gOoD fOr mE aNd I LoVe YoU tOo MuCh sO i'M gOiNg To AbAnDoN yOu
Because that makes sense.
The title of this book sounds really trashy, but it was actually pretty good. Besides the whole annoying self-sacrifice thing.

review to come...
Profile Image for Delirious Disquisitions.
448 reviews183 followers
July 24, 2021
I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

You should read this if you like: atmospheric Gothic romances, historical settings, mail order brides, gruff/stoic war heroes, sweet romances, mysteries, stories about British occupation of India, trauma, etc.

I'll be honest, I requested this book based entirely on the beautiful cover and the plot description. Generally, I'm a stickler for only reading historical romances written by my favorite authors. I know what I like and not everything written in this genre agrees with me. I had never read anything by Mimi Matthews before and as such did not really have any expectations going in. I'm pleasantly surprised by how very well this novel was written and how much I enjoyed it.

The premise of The Matrimonial Advertisement is pretty straight forward. Helena Reynolds is faced with some mysterious and dire circumstances that forces her to flee London. In her desperation she answers a matrimonial advertisement. Travelling to a remote cliffside village, she meets and weds Justin Thornhill. Justin, a scared and traumatized army captain with some secrets of his own. But their pasts soon catch up to them and threaten to destabilize everything they have build between them.

Where this novel excels is its deeply atmospheric writing. Matthew's writing brings the Gothic setting to living, breathing life reminiscent of the classic stories like The Woman in White. The remote estate on the edge of a cliff, the incessant rain storms flooding the roads, the crash of the waves on the rocky outcropping: each detail so vividly described that I could almost smell brine in the air! Even the Greyfriar's Abbey with its Gothic stories of haunting added to the sense of mystery permeating the first half of the novel. It was all terribly exciting to read!

The characters themselves build on the mystery with enough hints to keep you invested till the reveal. Both Helena and Justin had traumatic pasts that they worked together to overcome. Their relationship was one build on trust and admiration for the each other. Helena's quiet strength and resilience and Justin's kind disposition really made it very easy to root for them as a couple. Theirs was sweet, domestic kind of romance.

Matthews also draws attention to the women of Victorian England, from their sheltered lives to their limited freedom and their treatment as objects. Through Helena's character, Matthews addresses topics such as women's rights (or lack thereof), unfair laws that favor the patriarchy, confines of marriage, violence against women, abuse, metal health, etc. It made for an interesting and unconventional character.

In addition to the characters, the historical events Mathews incorporated withint the narrative itself was written particularly well. With Matthews background, I'm not surprised with the amount of research that's been put into the details. Certain historical events, like the incident in India, were seamlessly integrated into the novel without making it seem like a token mention. Its a pet peeve of mine when authors base their plot in India and try to insert random Hindi words here and there for flavor. Here, however, Hindi terms has been sparingly used and only to add something to the plot.

All in all, I really enjoyed the first half of the novel. There was romance, mystery, and a intriguing plot to boot. But it all kind of falls apart about 60% through once the setting shifts to London. It just seems like every other historical romance from then on and there really isn't much in terms of plot to really keep you reading. The characters too are suddenly hit with a bout of noble idiocy and refuse to actually communicate shit, preferring to dwell in unnecessary angst instead. All of that I really could have done without.

Overall, I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a light historical romance with some Gothic elements thrown in. 3.5 stars. I look forward to reading more of Mimi Matthews work in the future.
Profile Image for Mo.
1,351 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2019
I did enjoy it but it fell short for me. Not sure why. Maybe I was expecting a bit more drama in the story. Oh, well, never mind. It was an enjoyable read and I may continue with the rest of the series at some stage.

I liked both characters. I will be interested in following the story line of the other Orphans in the future

"Shall we visit the Ashburnham Pavilion?"

She retrieved the copy of David Copperfield she'd been reading ...

Profile Image for Preeti ♥︎ Her Bookshelves.
1,291 reviews19 followers
August 9, 2020
Hmmm, Should I jump in with my pov or not?
Because one people’s Sepoy Mutiny can be the other's First War of Independence.
One can be labelled an anarchist, cowardly act and the other, a glorious seeking of freedom and self-governance. But the glory had a blot that the author picks up on here.

I like the romance, though a bit slow, as the h/H seem well matched. A grumpy, emotionally wounded, withdrawn and towering H and a beautiful, vulnerable, on-the-run h. Both are hiding secrets. She recognizes a safe harbor when she sees one - and hangs on for dear life while he has more than one demon to slay. The latter half slows down and the H goes into self-sacrificing mode. But, overall, I liked them as a couple. Convincing.

But being an Indian, can I let the Bibighar Massacre and the Sepoy Mutiny go without commenting? For the uninitiated, the first is a tragic, horrifying incidence where over 200 unarmed and helpless British women and children were massacred by the locals in the June of 1857, during the later stages of the Uprising against the British colonialists. There can be no excuse or rationale for this monstrous act.
My only objection to Mimi Matthews’ account is her normalizing/mitigating the colonizing by talking of just this one incident out of the whole 200 plus years of Britain’s ruthless occupation of India. The one time when the colonizers were the helpless victims and the natives, merciless barbarians. I’ve read many HRs with an India connect and most of them acquit themselves well on the sensitivity meter. (If they comically butcher up names and cultural aspects, then that’s cultural ignorance and lack of research.)
Ms. Matthews has researched well. She’s a historian. She has a webpage giving various versions of the incident. There are Indian accounts, French accounts that differ somewhat from the British, as there are British accounts that differ from the official version. What happened, did happen. No denying that but the pitiless and oppressive power tilt as well as the religious and cultural insensitivity and deliberate brutality against the ‘natives’ - leading up to, during and after that incident are also undeniable. The British retribution, expectedly, was sweeping and horrifying but also inhumane and chilling in its details.

The H, Justin, by the way, was an Indian sympathizer who thinks his faith and soft attitude towards the Indians was also to blame in his (perhaps) wrong perception of the situation on the ground that led to the massacre of the helpless under his protection. Have you noticed that fictional/HR Hs are always sympathetic or are friends with the oppressed natives - Indians, Red Indians or others that be? Hs can never be on the wrong side. So, Justin also tells us that he never participated in the rape and the pillage before or after these incidents. Make what you may of all of this.

History is written by the conquerors and used to further their agenda. The conquered have no voice. Only seething resentment that boils over now and then. And tragically, as human history tells us - violence wins every time and mostly the helpless and the innocent on either sides bear the brunt. And, then it becomes a cycle of bloodlust. (No wonder Gandhi with his non-violent methods is so well eulogized, all over.)

My mind also goes to 'Junoon’(Madness), a 1970s Hindi movie with a sensitive portrayal of the Cawnpore happenings, including Bibighar. It's based on a novel by Ruskin Bond (aptly an Anglo-Indian himself) - 'A Flight of Pigeons'. It is a star-crossed love story between a feudal Indian and an English girl who finds refuge in his house, along with her family, during this very time. The dynamics are exceptional - both thought-provoking and spine-chilling. The h’s smoothly manipulative mother, the H’s rebel brother-in-law, jealous household women and the seething violence in the backdrop seem on a different plane from the h/H and their sweet/burning glances. The ending could not, should not have been different.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,680 reviews1,015 followers
November 18, 2018
I've given this a B- at AAR, so that's 3.5 stars, rounded up

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.
Profile Image for Karen.
805 reviews1,012 followers
February 1, 2019

I absolutely loved this! Could NOT put it down. The plot line was predictable, but the gothic nature of the story just drew me in, and wouldn't let go. WOW. This author can certainly spin a tale. It had the same built up for me that North and South did. I would have appreciated a little more steam, but the tension was unbearable. It was like that kiss on the train scene... *swoon*

This was an audiobook, and the narrator, Justine Eyre did a brilliant job. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.
Profile Image for "Avonna.
1,154 reviews315 followers
August 16, 2018
Check out all of my reviews at: https://www.avonnalovesgenres.com

Once again, upon opening a Mimi Matthews Victorian romance, I am completely absorbed into the era’s mores, clothing and prose as well as a beautifully written, emotional romance. THE MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT (Parish Orphans of Devon #1) is the first book in a new historical romance series.

Helena Reynolds is desperate to escape London. Her last hope is to be picked by ex-army Captain Justin Thornhill after answering an advertisement posted for him by his friends for a wife. She prays the coast of North Devon is far enough away from London and the protection of a husband is enough to save her.

Justin Thornhill returned to North Devon from being tortured as a captive in an Indian prison. After working for several years to improve his fortunes, he now owns Greyfriar’s Abbey and should be happy that his revenge is complete, but he realizes he wants a woman to help with the Abbey and occasionally warm his bed. He goes along with his friends’ advertisement idea and is shocked when a beautiful, refined young woman responds. Justin knows she is hiding something, but he cannot resist the opportunity of having Helena as his wife.

Justin will do everything in his power to protect Helena, even as he learns the secrets she keeps, because what started as a marriage of convenience from a matrimonial advertisement is turning into more. Helena feels safe with her husband and is bravely willing to share her secret to free herself and help others, but will she understand Justin’s own secrets that torture him and he has yet to share with her?

Ms. Matthews is my go-to author for historically accurate Victorian era romance. Her characters are so vivid and true to their time. The romance grows from meeting, to friendship, to caring, to love without any sex scenes. The emotional depth of Helena and Justin’s romance is portrayed in their pain, fear, ultimate caring and understanding. I always become emotionally attached to Ms. Matthews’ heroes and heroines. This book also uses two significant historical issues blended with the romance to add depth to Helena and Justin’s past and present decisions and actions. This is a story, romance and characters that will stay with me for a very long time to come. I cannot wait for the next book in the series!
Profile Image for Stormi .
514 reviews72 followers
August 25, 2018
The Matrimonial Advertisement is such a wonderful historical romance. Thornhill totally gave me bad-boy-Mr. Darcy vibe, which made me immediately love him. He is gruff and stoic on the outside but that man has such a big heart and will do whatever he can to take care of and protect those he cares for. Not only is the hero swoon-worthy in The Matrimonial Advertisement, but the background characters and heroine are also well developed and easy to relate to. I didn't realize this book would be the first in a series and I am really hoping book 2 will be Mr. Finchley's story, because I am so intrigued about him and his "diabolical" mind.

I voluntarily received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kara Isaac.
Author 7 books625 followers
January 18, 2020
Couldn't put it down. Superb writing that had me reading at every spare second I got. Mimi Matthews is definitely a new favorite historical romance author!
Profile Image for Carol Cork *Young at Heart Oldie*.
425 reviews203 followers
May 24, 2021
4.25 Stars

Mimi Matthews has become one of my go-to authors when I want to read an emotional and tender Victorian romance that is elegantly written and well-researched. The Matrimonial Advertisement is the first book in her new Parish Orphans of Devon series.

This is a lovely story and Justin and Helena are such an engaging couple. The romance between them develops slowly which I really liked. It allows time for their initial caution to grow into friendship, and then mutual trust when they are able to share their deepest secrets. I had a real sense of their growing attraction and Ms. Matthews builds the sexual tension most effectively.

Helena sees that, beneath the gruff exterior, Justin is kind, steadfast, honourable, and protective towards all those he cares for. I love how he quickly recognises how lost and vulnerable Helena seems and is determined to shield her from harm. At first, Helena is fearful and skittish but, when her secrets are revealed, I could totally understand her fears and the actions she was forced to take.

I love how these two people who seem such complete opposites are so perfect for each other. Helena finds a man who will protect and cherish her, and inspires her to be strong and face her fears head on. Justine finds a woman who accepts and loves him regardless of his past.

I feel that the story lost some of its momentum after Justin and Helena go to London. While I understand that the plot line was necessary to resolve Helena’s predicament, I think I was probably expecting it to be a little more dramatic. Then, towards the end, Justin suddenly decides to play the ‘I’m not worthy of you’ card which seemed contrived to create some last minute conflict between them. Thank goodness Helena shows some sense!

“I love whatever kind of man you are.”
He gave her an arrested look. “What did you say?” “
I said that I love you, exactly as you are.”

There were a number of interesting secondary characters and I was particularly intrigued by Tom Finchley, Justin’s solicitor, and Jenny, Helena’s cousin, and look forward to reading their story in A Modest Independence.

I love how Ms. Matthews always creates a real sense of the Victorian era with her attention to detail and her in-depth research. In this book, she highlights how sane individuals could be incarcerated in insane asylums by greedy, unscrupulous relatives, with little or no protection from the law. There is also reference to the atrocities committed at Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny in 1857, which Justin carries so much guilt about.

MY VERDICT: Despite my criticisms, there are a lot of things I loved about this book and I will certainly be reading the rest of the series.
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,856 reviews846 followers
April 18, 2019
What kind of man would post a marriage offer for a wife? What kind of woman would answer it? A man who wants/needs a wife but doesn’t want to go through the hoops of courtship. Yet, when Justin lays eyes on Helena and gets to know her, he’s willing to do a lot more than just jump through hoops. Helena answers the advertisement seeking protection and refuge, just wanting a kind, protective man, but Justin stirs up a lot more than just shelter and friendship. I loved seeing these two fall in love while battling insecurities, and getting to know each other, revealing their deepest secrets.

What Helena went through made me so angry! I’m happy she found an advocate and protector and more with Justin. He also inspired her to courageously stand up for herself! I loved Justin and was thrilled Helena came into his life! She was just the kind of woman he deserved after the past he endured!

I picked up The Marriage Advertisement after loving A Holiday by Gaslight. The e-copy and audio together were a steal of a deal on Amazon. I was riveted to the story, starting the audio book and then continuing to read traditionally needing to know how it all turned out! The audio was fantastic, I highly recommend Justine Eyre!

Mimi Matthews is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical romance authors, which is why I’m pleased the series will continue with Helena’s best friend/companion, Jenny, in the next story: A Modest Independence releasing next week. Can’t wait!
Profile Image for Mei.
1,881 reviews414 followers
March 3, 2020
Not a 5 stars, but solid 4! :)

I liked both MCs, but I was annoyed with Helena for postponing revealing her "secret", i.e. telling Justin what is happing and from whom she's running from and why!

Justin was not an ogre and she has ample oppotunity to speak, but she kept waiting for the perfect moment that, obviously, didn't came! What came was disaster!

I liked Justin better. He was honorable and tender, even if a bit self-deprecating.

Still, the idea and the story was interesting and I liked the writing! I'll be surely reading the next one in the series!
Profile Image for Frankie.
834 reviews61 followers
June 23, 2018
I really, really want to give this book more than five stars!
Oh, my word! I don’t have enough words to say how unbelievably incredible this book is. I literally started this book and devoured it in one go, that first page hooked me right up until the last very last word. I am a huge fan of Ms Matthews, her writing is always flawless and articulate, but this simply is in a league of its own.

The Matrimonial Advertisement is book one in this new series; Parish Orphans of Devon, what a marvellous way to be introduced to this series. Judging by this, this series is going to be a cracking good one and I am now waiting with baited breath for the next instalment. I really am very impatient. 😊

Lady Helena Reynolds is running away from London, running away from something worse than death. She answers a Matrimonial Advertisement in the paper, gets on a train and travels to Devon to marry a man she has never met. She is desperate, this really is the only way she can protect herself. The man himself and her soon to be home isn’t exactly what she expected, he isn’t exactly the knight on a white horse with a fairy tale castle on a hill, he is just as vulnerable and tormented as her.

Self-made man and Ex-military Captain; Justin Thornhill is reluctantly in search of a wife, not something he is looking forward to. But as his man-of-business took it upon himself to put an advertisement in the paper for a bride, he knows that if he is ever going to gain the trust and civility of the villager’s instead of constant disdain towards him, he needs a wife to help him. He expects an older stern woman who will be able to manage a house and servants, what he doesn’t expect is a young beautiful woman, who is terrified and secretive.

Both go into this ‘Marriage of Convenience’ with one purpose in mind, that this arrangement will benefit them both, him for the wife that he clearly needs and her for the protection she desperately needs. As each of their personal secrets are revealed, they soon learn that this arrangement is something more than either of them had expected. I love how they start bonding and getting to know each other over the likes of Charles Dickens, it brings a great realism to their relationship.

Anyone who has read my reviews, will know how much I love this lady’s work. I am a massive fan of Mimi Matthews she is my go to author for anything Victorian, her brilliantly composed and stylish writing engages and entrances. ‘The Matrimonial Advertisement’ is a lot darker that what we have come to expect from Ms Matthews, but for me this is Gothic Victorian story-telling at its best. This is how this genre is supposed to be written!

The plot is solid and fresh it takes you on a journey that will have you reaching for the tissues, I can guarantee that you will be weeping like a baby. The characters are astounding, they develop throughout the story in a natural and wonderful way, not just as people but as their romance blossoms so beautifully. Ms Matthews has out done herself with this, by far one of the best books I have read -ever! I cannot wait to see what comes next in the series

Just breathtaking!
Profile Image for Joanna Loves Reading.
563 reviews215 followers
September 2, 2018
3.5 Stars

I thought this was an interesting and well-written story, and I would consider reading more by this author if the subject matter interested me. I think this book could not quite decide if it was a romance or a mystery/suspense story, and as a result, both aspects were underwhelming.

The heroine, Helena, is in desperate straights and answers a matrimonial advert as a last resort. The hero, Justin, is an ex-soldier who has recently purchased a remote estate and places the advert in hopes for companionship. Both characters have demons that haunt them, but Justin’s are mostly in the past. Most of the novel revolves around conquering Helena’s current demons.

With the theme of false insanity accusation to gain a large inheritance being central to the story, the resolution was unsatisfying to me, especially considering the romance development was set aside for much of the story in favor of its telling. The romance was not very sensual or passionate, and I was not totally sold on it.

There were some interesting characters that would make me consider reading further if this continues as a series. Overall, this was a mostly entertaining read though not entirely satisfying.

*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,214 reviews207 followers
October 13, 2019
I LOVED this one. It was just right for me. It was such a good romance. It was heart tugging and tension filled. I enjoyed both of these characters:} There was a nice touch of sensuality but a proper romance all the way through. Justin was just awesome. Leading men everywhere take note:} This had a bit of a B&B retelling feel to it. There were some dark themes. Insanity was not handled well back then and this book has a bit of a Gothic feel to it. Things were detailed but I've heard much worse. It was just a good read with great elements. On to book 2!
Profile Image for Jayne Fresina.
Author 47 books258 followers
May 9, 2018
Review of an arc copy.

Helena Reynolds has something to hide; Justin Thornhill has a past he wants to escape. The solution? A marriage of convenience. He needs a respectable wife and she needs protection, but neither expect the passion and the love that follows.

Like a warm bath, a box of Leonidas chocolates, or a glass of wine after a hard day's work -- ok, actually all three -- The Matrimonial Advertisement is exactly what I want to sink into and enjoy greedily without interruption. This delightful Victorian love story took me away to another time and another place for a few blissful hours.

Mimi Matthews is a wonderful storyteller. She creates very likeable, memorable, layered characters that quickly feel like friends. Her style is naturally elegant and warmly flowing, full of historical detail and charm. I don't have a lot of time to read these days, so I really have to be tempted to pick up a book, but this is the second of her fictional works that I've devoured and I'm looking forward to more.
Profile Image for Jultri.
1,078 reviews6 followers
March 7, 2020
3.75/5. When Justin Thornhill agreed to the suggestion of placing a matrimonial advertisement in the papers, he was expecting a pleasant companion to help him run his remote coastal estate and to ease his days of physical loneliness. He certainly did not expect a refined London lady like Helena to answer the ad and to readily agree to marry a cynical, scarred ex-soldier such as himself of comfortable but not wealthy means and certainly with no noble family name to offer her, what with his illegitimacy and humble beginnings growing up in a nearby orphanage. He initially tries to scare her off with his plain and rather coarse talking but soon readily relents to her insistence that she is willing to go ahead with the match. He is taken by her beauty even as he is wary of her desperation in seeking out a stranger to marry.

Helena is running away from those threatening her freedom, her safety, her life. She meets her potential husband with painful bruises still marring her body and the awareness that her pursuers are likely hot on her heels. All she knows about Mr Thornhill is that "he had been a soldier, and that he knows how to keep a woman safe." For that she is willing to entrust her hand in marriage, her body to this stranger to own, to protect.

Thus begins a marriage of convenience between a man who has too many demons still haunting him and a woman who is being hunted by a powerful peer. She marries him for protection and that's what Justin does best, even as he continues to blame himself for his perceived failure to save women and children from slaughter in the Indian uprising of Cawnpore. Trust, respect and ultimately complicated feelings grow from their business arrangement.

We. Justin’s chest expanded on an almost painful surge of emotion. He couldn’t tell if it was relief or—worse—if it was gratitude. All she’d said was we. It was hardly a declaration of undying affection, but to him, in that moment, it was everything.

Good God, but a matrimonial advertisement was supposed to alleviate the need for any of this emotional claptrap. If he’d wanted to embark on a courtship, he’d have found a woman at a village assembly somewhere. A plain, no-nonsense sort of female. The daughter of a tradesman or the widow of a soldier. He’d never have chosen a lady of such beauty and refinement. He knew what he was. And what he deserved. But as Helena gazed up at him, her lips rosy from his kisses and her eyes soft as velvet, he realized that whether he deserved her or not, she was his. And he’d be damned if he made her unhappy.

Great writing and felt authentic. Well-researched. Heavy subject matters especially dealing with how patients were treated in Victorian mental asylums and how easily their rights and freedom were taken away from them. The author inserted other interesting tidbits about the period, such as the burns risk to women in those days with their highly inflammable large skirts. (Additional research by myself revealed that in 1860, notable British medical journal the Lancet reported that an estimated 3,000 women died by fire in one year!). I liked that although the author acknowledged the horror of the killings of the innocent women and children at Cawnpore, she also allowed Justin to sympathise with the locals and and their plight to regain their land and independence.

It's a fairly clean book. It could be better if Justin did not prolong his self-flagellation and hence denied both of them their happiness for longer than needed. A bit of humour could have also been injected to lighten the gloomy atmosphere of the book just a tad.

He didn’t believe in fate. He didn’t trust it. The universe had never dropped good fortune into his lap. The only luck he’d ever had was what he’d made for himself. Even then, success had often left him hollow. If she wanted to believe they’d been fated to meet, he wouldn’t argue. But he had no illusions. He recognized their union for exactly what it was. It wasn’t fate or destiny or providence. It was blind chance. As fleeting and ephemeral as a vapor of ether. He intended to savor every precious second of it.

“It’s not true. I have a sadness in me, but I’m not melancholic. I’m not suffering from hysteria. I merely feel things deeply. I feel them here.” She pressed a hand to her breast. “And when I love someone—and when they’re taken away from me—I can’t just forget them as though they’d never been.”
Profile Image for Jan.
881 reviews170 followers
September 8, 2018
This was a quick read that I knocked over in one day. It was a pleasant but not very memorable read for me. I liked the MCs, and the underlying plot device was historically interesting.

The book started off quite well, with a bit of a 'gothic mystery' feel. Helena obviously has a dark secret she's running from - otherwise she wouldn't have answered the titular advertisement. Justin dwells in the run-down old Greyfriar's Abbey at a remote and rugged clifftop site in Devon. He's a hot and appealing H - a former cavalry soldier who's served in India. Ruggedly handsome, but with some burn scars hinting at a dark past for him also.

I liked the two of them, separately and together. I liked the way their relationship grew and developed. They were attracted, and there were some scenes where you could have cut the sexual tension with the proverbial knife. They also helped each other to face their problems.

But, I hadn't realised this was a 'clean romance'. *sigh* Even after they were married, there were no sex scenes at all in the book. I know that suits some readers, but I like my books a little sexier, I'm afraid. There were some lovely kissing scenes, but that was it.

The storyline was reasonably interesting, but unfortunately for me the characters and plot weren't really enough to hold my interest completely. I did finish the book but won't be seeking more from this author.

Profile Image for Dawn.
Author 7 books798 followers
March 22, 2019
4.5 stars for this very enjoyable book! Very good writing/story-telling. It’s very relational romance centered, which is what I like best. It’s secular, but relatively clean—which means plenty of sexual tension between the hero and heroine, but no sex. There aren’t very many books like this, but I’m glad when I find them. I look forward to reading the second in the series... and then I suppose there will be another two books in the series after that to look forward to as well, as there are four “Parish Orphans of Devon”.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,115 reviews73 followers
May 13, 2019
5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I first want to say that I’ve loved every book by this author! She’s in my top 5 favorites.
I held off reading this because I read through her books so fast that I won’t have anything new by her for awhile. Anybody?
Another wonderful story of love and sacrifices!
What I loved:
* romance
I can’t wait to start book two! Happy Reading! ❤️
Profile Image for Stacey.
1,446 reviews1,156 followers
April 22, 2021
He got more than he bargained for...

For some reason, I can tolerate a clean audiobooks more than when I'm reading a book. I think it has a little bit to do with my awareness and concentration. While I'm reading, the book has my full attention so I want ALL of the emotions and feelings. When listening, the story has most of my attention, but I have to keep an awareness of my surroundings too. There's also the fact that I get a wee bit self-conscious when listening to hot and steamy scenes. I always feel like the people around me can hear all of the smutty goodness. ;-)

So, The Matrimonial Advertisement is clean and it mostly didn't bother me. Sure, I wanted to 'see' their connection but considering this was a slow burn, it never felt like I was denied. The heroine was a true lady and blushed at the mention of body parts. The hero never felt like he was good enough for his beautiful wife. Stubborn to the end, the two of them just needed to talk and share their true feelings.

The storyline had me engrossed from the start, the characters were interesting, and the love story, while at times frustrating, left me completely satisfied. The additional characters enhanced the story and I'm pretty sure we will be revisiting some of them in future stories.

Mimi Matthews, The Matrimonial Advertisement was a great introduction to this author's work and I will definitely consider reading more of this series in the future.

Profile Image for Linda .
1,811 reviews256 followers
April 17, 2019
The Matrimonial Advertisement was my first time reading something by Mimi Matthews and let’s just say, color me impressed. I became interested in this author when several of my GR friends gave her stories four or five stars. I was hooked when I found ripples of gothic vibes resonating in this marriage of convenience.

Helena Reynolds and Justin Thornhill first met in a tavern though she was unaware he was her possible ‘intended’. She won him over with her beauty, properness and an unwavering delicacy. He sensed she had some secrets -she does- but he was flattered by her openness regarding his looks and background. A former soldier, he suffered scars on part of his face and elsewhere and he acquired his estate through vague methods. At least, that is what the townspeople gossiped.

I appreciated that Ms. Matthews did not gloss over the apprehension with their new relationship. After their vows, he courted her. Amazingly, the couple actually talked. Helena offered Justin her support and he promised to treat her with kindness.

Those gothic vibes I mentioned earlier reminded me of a few Victorian HRs written by Megan Chance. Both of these authors used an unsettling theme and weaved it among the pages. It fermented a disquietude in what could have been a sugary story line. I found the pacing to be fairly brisk and because I was so engaged, I looked past a few minor foibles.

*I look forward to reading more stories by Ms. Matthews.*
Profile Image for Debbie DiFiore.
2,026 reviews219 followers
October 6, 2021
Clean romance and very compelling

I loved this story of a heroine who is running from her unscrupulous Uncle who is trying to have her committed so he can steal her money. It talks of the treatments she went through including, electro shock therapy and freezing cold ice baths. It was a very interesting premise especially since it was a very real premise in those days. She answers a matrimonial advertisement and is off to marry Justin Thornhill, a very swoon hero. He is scarred and an ex-soldier who lives in an old abbey in the middle of nowhere. I loved how they fell in love and how he protected her from the evil uncle and his co-hort. There are only kisses and no detailed romantic scenes. What he did at the end really angered me and it almost derailed my enjoyment of this book. Thank goodness the heroine finally ignored his actions and fought for her HEA. I really hope Giles, her brother is not dead. I would love to read a book about him.
Profile Image for Gretchen.
259 reviews36 followers
July 15, 2020
I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this one & it did NOT disappoint!!! I loved this one, just like I loved The Work of Art! This is an amazingly gothic-feeling-heart-melting marriage of convenience story. I just simply love everything Mimi Matthews writes.

The brooding wounded hero- LOVE
The beautiful damsel in distress above his station- LOVE
The mystery over why she answered his ad- LOVE
The secondary characters& setting the stage for the other orphan men- LOVE
I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THE REST OF THIS SERIES. But I know I’ll be so sad after I go through them all! ❤️

Does anyone know of any other proper romance writers that write the romance/chemistry/tension as well as Mimi Matthews? Cause I have yet to find one.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,431 reviews987 followers
December 6, 2021
3.5 stars

I was really into this book up until Chapter 16 (). After that it became a bit slower and uninteresting, with the exception of when we finally find out the details of what exactly happened to Helena. This author writes only clean historical romances, which I don’t mind because the plot of her stories are usually more than enough to keep me interested. But in this case I think it was a little over the top how the author managed to avoid the physical romance.
Profile Image for Evie Dunmore.
Author 5 books5,642 followers
October 11, 2019
What a gem of a romance - elegantly written and richly detailed, it pulled me in from the first page and I read it in one sitting. I loved the atmospheric coastal setting, and how skilfully Mimi Matthews sprinkles the details of daily Victorian life into her novels and makes me feel immersed in a different era. Also, the attraction between the h and H was so palpable from the get go, it alone would have kept me turning the pages.
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