The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon)

Written by Mimi Matthews
Review by Sally Zigmond

Helena Reynolds is so desperate to escape her life in London, she is willing to undertake the dangerous and solitary journey to marry an unknown man who lives in a remote, ancient mansion on high cliffs on the North Devon coast. Retired Captain Justin Thornhill may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome (despite his scars), but is not a typical romantic hero; nor is Helena a typical plain spinster eager to marry anyone. Born an orphan, Justin has clawed his way from rags to riches and he, too, has his secrets. Both need to trust each other and share their fears. As they grow closer in friendship and trust, Justin devises a risky plan to free Helena from the grasp of her manipulative uncle. Two events form the historical background of what might be considered a simple romance: the Cawnpore Massacre, which took place during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and secondly, in 1858, the exposure in The London Times of  greedy relatives committing their dependents (usually female) to private insane asylums for financial benefit. This practice was later publicized by Wilkie Collins in The Woman in White.

If you prefer historical romance to be more than ‘Happy Ever After,’ then The Matrimonial Advertisement is the novel for you. I have one quibble, however. At times the dialogue felt too modern for me, and jarring anachronisms make it hard for me to whole-heartedly recommend what otherwise is a good, page-turning historical romance.