cover image The Siren of Sussex

The Siren of Sussex

Mimi Matthews. Berkley, $16 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-593-33713-4

Matthews (Fair as a Star) opens her Belles of London series with a tender and swoonworthy interracial, cross-class romance in Victorian London. White British equestrienne Evelyn Maltravers is desperate for a successful London season; following the disgrace of her older sister, Fenny, it falls to Evelyn to make a match that will secure both their futures. Half-Indian, half-English dressmaker Ahmad Malik knows that the right society lady wearing his designs will secure him enough business to purchase the dress shop where he works. When Ahmad’s client, Lady Heatherton, rescinds her order after Ahmad rejects her sexual advances, Ahmad pins his hopes on designing for Evelyn instead. As the necessary intimacy of dress fittings and consultations gives rise to attraction, Evelyn finds her prospects on the marriage market lacking compared to Ahmad. But confessing their mutual desire is just the first step in conquering the varied threats to their happiness. The societal obstacles to their relationship and thoughtful exploration of multiracial identity ground the romance, striking a delicate balance between grim period-typical attitudes and fluffy joy. Ahmad and Evelyn both marry impressive fierceness with understandable insecurities, making them a couple to root for. Readers will delight in this paean to women’s fashion and horseback riding. Agent: Sarah Hershman, Hershman Rights Management. (Jan.)