Matthews, Mimi. The Work of Art. [California]: Perfectly Proper Press, 2023.
ISBN-13: 978-1733056908 | Free | 340 pages | Regency Romance
An Uncommon Beauty…
Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.
An Unlikely Hero…
Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.
Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?
I first “bought” The Work of Art for free, before it was part of any series, ages ago. But now, with the release of its (Victorian) sequel, tying together with Gentleman Jim, which I did read, I decided to finally pick it up; so I’d have the full backstory. And while it is, while Matthews’ own admission, a revision of an earlier work, her signature style of slow-burning romance shines through, with a subtle suspense plot.
One of the things I love about Matthews is the heart she imbues in her characters. I couldn’t help but love and feel for Philly in her unfortunate situation as an unwanted poor relation, being preyed on by a predatory duke. And Arthur is a wonderful male lead: noble and protective of the Philly without being too showboat-y and obnoxious about it. And I love how realistic their marriage felt; they face challenges and misunderstandings, but they never resort to dramatics to the point where they feel over-the-top, providing a solid contrast of them vs. the villains.
I had mixed feelings about the way the portrayal of Arthur’s former intended was handled. I think there’s a lot to be said about the double standards of the Regency era, and how men could get away with all sorts of licentious behavior, while the woman’s reputation was ruined for being an equal participant. But to turn her into a sort of secondary antagonist, spitting poison into Philly’s ear, didn’t sit right with me me. However, I did ultimately like that Philly both acknowledged the other woman’s difficult past, while putting her in her place for her present-day behavior.
For the most part, this is a solid read, and I’d recommend it to fans of “closed-door” historical romance.
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in 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.
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