I have read and enjoyed quite a few novels by Mimi Matthews, but Gentleman Jim is my favourite so far. Set between Somerset and London in 1817, this is a tale full of love, adventure and revenge.
Maggie Honeywell and Nicholas Seaton were childhood sweethearts who grew up together on her father’s estate in Somerset; she the squire’s daughter, and he the illegitimate son of the kitchen maid, though his father was rumoured to be the notorious highwayman, Gentleman Jim.
Her father had always wanted to join his estate with the neighbouring one by having Maggie marry Frederick Burton-Smythe. She loathed him, but this was no deterrent to her father’s plans. Jealous of their close relationship, Fred falsely accuses Nicholas of stealing Maggie’s jewellery, and intends handing him over to the magistrate, thereby eliminating his rival. Maggie has other ideas – she helps Nicholas escape and vows to wait for him. He sets off to find his father and promises to return.
We learn all this in the prologue. Ten years have gone by, and Maggie’s father is now dead. She is completely at Fred’s mercy – in six months she must either marry him or lose everything. In this day and age it is hard for us to fathom that a devoted father would put his daughter in this position, but women were simply seen as possessions with little or no say in what happened to them.
Maggie goes to stay with a friend in London to try to come up with a plan. She learns that a Viscount St Clare has challenged Fred to a duel. If anything should happen to Fred, her estate will go to a distant relative, and she will be no better off, so she visits St Clare to try and dissuade him from fighting the duel. She comes away convinced that St Clare is Nicholas Seaton, though he denies it vehemently, as this would mess up his plans to prove he is the grandson and legitimate heir of the Earl of Allendale.
The emphasis in Gentleman Jim is different from Mimi Matthews’ previous books. It is partly set in London during the season, with more exposure to the eyes of the ton, and all this entails – balls, duels, etiquette and carriage rides in the park. There is a large element of suspense, mystery and adventure which shows Maggie to be a fearless, feisty heroine capable of holding her own when the going gets tough.
The characters are all well written and relatable, even the nasty ones who are willing to go to any lengths to satisfy their greed. Mimi Matthews brings Regency England to life, seamlessly inserting the period detail into the story with a light touch. My only reservation would be that I don’t think the cover art does the book justice.
At the start of Gentleman Jim, the likelihood of Maggie and Nicholas ending up together seems pretty remote, but this is a romance novel so the ending is almost a foregone conclusion. It is how Mimi Matthews brings the story to a satisfying and believable finale that makes this such an enjoyable read.
Thanks to Mimi Matthews for a digital copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT