“Shiveringly Gothic.”—New York Times Book Review
A PopSugar and BookBub Best Romance of 2022!
A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.
Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.
For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.
In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes…
A grand cross-class romance, a twisty mystery, and emotional internal struggles combine to excellent effect in Matthews's effervescent second Belles of London romance (after Siren of Sussex). Navigating Victorian high society is a necessary nightmare for anxious heiress Julia Wychwood, who prefers the company of a good novel or her horse to men, but longs to escape the clutches of her ailing and overbearing parents. Seeking a spouse is equally unpleasant for war hero Jasper Blunt, who needs a lady's fortune to secure a life for his three children and repair the country estate where they reside. Jasper and Julia discover an unexpected mutual attraction and marry despite Julia's parents' objections to Jasper's suit—and the threat that they will withhold her dowry. Jasper is prepared to sacrifice Julia's money to keep her safe with him, but her family's continued meddling endangers the couple's blissful union—and could dig up secrets that Jasper is desperate to keep buried. Matthews expertly paces out the mystery of what Jasper is hiding; each twist brings Julia and the reader closer to the truth, but the final reveal still manages to be a surprise. Most delightful is the genuine feeling of joy between the newlyweds, who each grow into their own together. Matthews's fans and new readers alike will root for this well-earned love story. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary.