Mimi Matthews The Sussex Mermaid is the perfect prescription for anyone looking for a well-written historical romance with complex characters and a wonderful love story that will make you pass out,
I am not entirely impartial, however. I have been reading Mimi Matthews since she published the first book in her Parish Orphans of Devon series in 2018 and have read and loved every book she has released since.
The Sussex Mermaid is the first in the new London beauties series and it features everything I love so much about writing Matthews, but also so much more.
But let’s get down to the story. The Sussex Mermaid follows Evelyn “Evie” Maltravers and Ahmad Malik.
Evie is a young white woman who came to London to find a husband. Her older sister threw the family into a scandal so now it’s up to her to save them all. As long as the man has the money and can support her and her sisters and not be a complete bully, she is okay with anyone.
But she’s not the prettiest girl in the crowd so she needs a step up and all she has to recommend is her riding skills.
The Sussex Mermaid is everything you could expect from a historic romance
So, she thinks that if she can get someone to give her a wonderful riding habit, she can wear it while she shows off her riding skills in the park and attract a qualifying gentleman.
She doesn’t know when she goes to the tailor that the man who makes the riding gear that all the Pretty Horsebreakers wear (they’re the fancy courtesans of the day), she’s going to meet the man of her dreams. Sadly, he doesn’t fit into any of the parameters of what society says it needs a husband to be.
Ahmad works in a sewing workshop and hopes to one day own his establishment. He has a talent to burn and he has developed a habit of driving quite remarkable for the most attractive courtesans. But he wants more. He wants to make dresses. He wants people to recognize his talent. He wants to be able to provide for himself and his cousin Mira.
Together, Ahmad and Mira have survived a bit and he wants to make her life as good as it deserves. They made their way from India to London at a young age and survived on their own. They lived in a brothel where Ahmad made dresses for women and Mira was allowed to be as child as she could. Eventually they had to move and Ahmad was able to find them a better job.
While this isn’t love at first sight for Ahmad and Evie, the spark is certainly there from the first time they touch each other’s hands. They both feel it and it triggers something neither of them could imagine.
If you didn’t think that a fitting for a driving habit could make you blush, you’d be wrong. While the level of heat in this story is mild, in a society where touching bare hands is barely audible, a scene with a woman in her underwear and a man measuring her is quite hot.
As they have more fittings together and spend more time with each other, that first spark turns into something much more. But being together is not an easy choice. Ahmad is half Indian and half British / White and knows what society is like. Knows what society says about him and what they would say about Evie if they were together. And he doesn’t want that for her.
Evie thinks she is strong enough to deal with any issues that arise, but she respects the fact that she cannot fully understand what Ahmad has been through and what he is experiencing when he is in public or even with its customers.
She is also aware of what is expected of her. While Ahmad is a genius in her eyes and certainly one of the most popular fashion designers in town, he doesn’t have the reputation or the money she needs to support her family. And let’s be honest, he’s not what his family expects either. He’s not white.
But is love enough? In this case, it might be fair. Especially for two characters who are ready to do anything for each other.
Beyond Evie and Ahmad, the supporting characters were also delicious. All of Evie’s new friends (who will be receiving their books soon) are unique, fun, and so supportive. And Mira doesn’t let her cousin get away with it when she sees how much he cares about Evie. She has to tease him. This is his job.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, a fashion addict (especially Victorian fashion), or lover of horseback riding, The Siren of Sussex is not a book you want to miss. It does not disappoint. I can’t wait to have the second book, The Beauty of Belgrave Square.
Mimi Matthews’ Sussex Mermaid is available in eBook, audiobook, and paperback formats.