Fair as a Star
Victorian Romantics, Book 1
by Mimi Matthews
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 14 Jul 2020 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2020
From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes a Victorian tale of love and longing in a quaint English village.
A Secret Burden...
After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy--or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl's life isn't as perfect as everyone believes.
A Longstanding Love...
As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother's intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark's more than willing to provide one. There's no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.
During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry's wedding. But in her darkest moment, it's Mark who comes to Beryl's aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings--or betraying his brother?
*Fair as a Star is a novella, approximately 50,000-words in length.
Praise for the Novels of Mimi Matthews
"Readers will be hard put to set this one down before the end." -Library Journal, starred review
"[A] gripping, emotional Victorian romance... Historical romance fans should snap this one up." -Publishers Weekly, starred review
"As always, Matthews attention to historical accuracy is impeccable." -Kirkus Reviews
"It seems that I say each book that Mimi Matthews pens is her best writing, but it appears to be true." -The Romance Reviews
"Mimi Matthews is an exceptional story-teller." -Passages to the Past
"[Matthews'] books are classics and remind me of Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh...simply wonderful." -Jane Porter, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
"Mimi Matthews writes so beautifully I'll happily follow her imagination anywhere." -Kate Pearce, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
A Note From the Publisher
Content Warning: Fair as a Star contains discussions of mental illness and domestic violence.
Average rating from 107 members
This review will appear at All About Romance closer to the release date. Grade: A Have you ever finished a romance novel and needed a few moments of quiet reflection before you can rejoin ‘the real world’ again? Time to sit and savor the pleasures of a well written story? If you haven’t - or, if you’re eager to do it again - I recommend you read Fair as a Star. Gentle, tender, poignant and deeply romantic, it’s the best romance I’ve read this year. After a year’s sojourn in Paris with her Aunt Hortensia, Beryl Burnham is returning to her home in the small village of Shepton Worthy, near Somerset. The year away was meant to help her recover from the periods of melancholy that have plagued her since childhood, but Beryl knows the sadness - the unhappiness - is never far away. She’s anxious about her return and ruminating on whether she’ll ever truly be well again, when she spots the local chapel in the distance. When she spies the doors to the chapel thrown open, she impulsively orders the carriage to stop. Ignoring her aunt’s admonishments to remain inside, she jumps out and tells her she’ll walk the remaining distance. Surely, if the doors to the chapel doors are open, Mark Rivenhall, the village curate, must be nearby? Mid-conversation with a parishioner, Mark stills when the woman calls out a greeting to the person behind him. It can’t be Beryl - his older brother would have told him if she was returning earlier than expected. But it is. Momentarily thrown by her sudden appearance, he can’t control his smile as she happily greets him and admits the chapel was her first stop. Beryl never revealed what led her to leave Shepton Worthy so quickly, and Mark ignored the rumors - that she was pregnant and/or was nursing a broken heart after his brother Jack was killed in Bhutan (he knew for a fact it wasn’t possible or true) - but he worried about her. He also hoped he might finally stop loving her while she was away. He didn’t. When Mark first sees her, Beryl thinks for a moment that he’s angry, until he smiles and offers to walk with her to the Grange. She thanks him for his letters during her year abroad, and apologizes for not telling him she was arriving home sooner than expected. They enjoy a companionable walk until they reach a fork in the road; Mark proceeds on to Rivenhall and a visit with Sir Henry Rivenhall, his brother. Beryl walks home to her family at the Grange, and contemplates her own delayed visit to Rivenhall and Sir Henry… her fiancé. Beryl tries to reacclimate herself to life in Shepton Worthy. Although the local doctor recommended more aggressive treatment and suggested she ‘acted sad’ to gain attention, her mother and aunt disagreed. The trip to Paris was meant to give her time to recover - and she did - but Beryl worries what might happen if she succumbs again. Her horse-mad younger sister Winnifred is a happy and welcome distraction, as is her friendship with Mark, and her volunteer work at the church. She tries to ignore the gossip and rumors about her abrupt departure, and is hopeful neither her mother or Dr. Cooper shared the true reason for her absence. But when her mother reveals that she spoke to the vicar about Beryl’s condition, she mistakenly assumes Mark must also know. The news sends her in a tailspin. She’s weeping, hidden away off the beaten path, when Mark discovers her. When he follows the sound of someone weeping during his walk home from the chapel, Mark is horrified to discover Beryl in tears. After she reveals the cause of her upset, he assures her he didn’t know anything about her reasons for leaving the village, and then asks her why she’s so unhappy. When she reveals that she’s been unhappy for a long time and that she doesn't know why, his heart breaks for her. He gives her solace and a shoulder to lean on. Mark doesn’t try to fix her or tell her she’ll get over it, but offers to help whenever, and however, he can. “This burden of yours - this sadness - I want you to leave it with me for a day or two.” Her chest constricted. She was grateful for his kindness. It was well meant, however wrong-headed. “It’s not something I can hand off at will. And even if I could…” Her eyes met his. “You can’t fix this, Mark. You can’t fix me.” He gave her a brief, lopsided smile. “Of course not,” he said. “You’re not broken.” Le sigh. Mark is so lovely and wonderful, and he’s deeply, irrevocably in love with Beryl. He tries valiantly to repress his love because he knows it's wrong… but he can’t. Instead, he’s a stalwart friend who looks for ways to support and help her, and tries to provide the light Beryl needs to see her through her darkest moments. Reader, I want to marry Mark. Unfortunately for me, he finds his perfect match in Beryl. Beautiful, generous and good, Beryl hides her sadness behind a happy facade. With Mark’s support, she begins to believe her sadness doesn’t define her, and that it isn’t something that needs to be cured, or fixed. He encourages her to seek out things that lift her spirits, and to ignore outdated advice that suggests she’s selfish or damaged. With his encouragement, she embraces the people and things that make her happy, and stops pretending her sadness isn’t sometimes overwhelming. Friends, Mark makes her happy. His affection and tender regard remind Beryl why she loves Mark, but as they grow closer over the course of this novel, Beryl slowly realizes she’s fallen in love with him, too. I want to tell you more about this charming pair, but though the central relationship is rich and satisfying, there’s so much more to Fair as a Star. Matthews does a superb job rendering Shepton Worthy - an idealized imagining of rural country life - and the interesting secondary characters who inhabit it, and I especially loved her characterization of horse-mad and headstrong Winnifred, who falls passionately in love with a horse (while the new local doctor not-so-secretly pines for her), and of Henry. While most writers would be quick to paint him as the villain of the story, Matthews takes a much more nuanced approach. Henry is a product of the events and experiences that shaped him, but he also loves his brother and wants the best for him. By the end of the novel, I liked him, too. Fair as a Star is a deeply romantic, low steam love story that captured my heart. Profoundly moving, tender and lovely, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
(6/5/2020) Goodreads review of Fair as a Star: a Victorian Romance. Thank you to Netgalley and Victory Editing Netgalley Co-op for providing an e-arc! There are not enough words to describe how beautiful and moving this novel is. It’s something everyone should read no matter your gender. It is, in my humble opinion, a handbook into romance and mental illness without being preachy and overbearing. Every person should look to the main characters interactions to learn how to treat friends, family, life partners or whoever else is important to you. I have never read a novel that handled mental illness in such a way and I was moved to tears. I wish every person was like Mark and Simon Black. I hope every Beryl in the world can look at this novel and realize their imperfections are what make them unique and beautiful. The story is about Beryl and her internal struggles that drove her away from her home at Shelton Worthy. She’s returned for her wedding to Henry Rivenhall, the master of the Rivenhall estate and brother to Mark, the town curate, her best friend. Little does everyone know that Beryl suffers from “melancholy” or as we would say in modern terms, anxiety and depression. While going through the story, I recognized negative sentiments towards the disorder that are unfortunately still prevalent today. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard from older generations that my generation and younger ones are “snowflakes” that should get over their sadness. That we should just toughen up because we have it so good. I honestly saw a lot of myself in Beryl and I’m sure others who have anxiety would too. The self doubt, the feeling that you’re selfish and only seeking attention. The book is at times heavy, but reality is not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes people just can’t help but feel sad and there is no magical cure. There are things to stave off the emotional pain but it’s a lifelong fight that requires others support. And Matthews makes sure everyone understands these points. And she creates such a beautiful, understanding person in Mark. Mark’s methods for helping Beryl are so so sooooo right. He treats her with respect, offers a listening ear, never judges her, and always keeps an open-mind. He seeks out information about melancholy so he can better understand what Beryl is going through. He lets her know that she’s not broken. And HE NEVER DOES THIS IN ORDER TO WIN HER OVER!!!! He does this as a friend because he knows she is in dire need of one. There is never any malicious intent behind his actions when he should’ve gone full on trying to court Beryl despite her already being betrothed to his brother. He also should’ve smacked his brother upside the head for being such a stubborn, patronizing jerk for treating Beryl how he did. Mark is an incredible friend and everyone deserves a Mark. The characters are all amazing and fulfill the roles they’re meant to play. Matthews even uplifts a certain character you spend the whole novel hating (I mean when the person is between you and your ship being happy, how can you not hate them?). I really want more with Dr. Black and Winnie though. I love Dr. Black’s forward thinking and I love Winnie’s free-spiritedness. If they do get a novel, it’d be a direct contrast of Beryl and Mark’s friends to lovers relationship (and I always love drama so I’m hoping Matthews delivers!) I just want to say that reading through the novel is like holding your breath. Every moment Mark and Beryl aren’t together made me feel as though I was dying (in a good way because I love build up!) You wonder how the two will find their way to each other (if they do!) and that’s what makes rooting for them and their journey so entertaining. There are so many quotes I want to highlight from the novel but I don’t want to spoil any of them. Matthews writing (especially dialogue) is just so whimsical and it made me so incredibly emotional. This book felt so incredibly real and relevant and I want /everyone/ to read it. It teaches you how to help your friends who suffer from anxiety. If you suffer from mental illness, it hammers home how you’re not broken or in need of fixing (because sometimes, we need to hear that!). It also teaches you how to treat (and not great) your lover. Wow wow wow I wish I could award a million stars but I guess I have to settle for five.
Mimi Matthews has become my new favorite authoress when it comes to realistic, respectable romances. I look for authors like Georgette Heyer, Clare Darcy who write me some romances that are based on character emotion and conversation. This book... this book made me cry. I never read someone handle a character with a mental illness so well that I want to just say 'yes, you got this and you did it' to Mrs. Matthews. Mental illness back then and into the 1900's was something seen of an issue for women more so then men. Women who were fine otherwise, but had clinical depression, were tortured and put through unbelievable cures by physicians that either worsened the issue or resulted in death. Beryl is a beautiful, kind, loving person and that she has for a long time developed an unknown reason for a weight in her that comes at times. An incident caused her to go on a small vacation and return to her small village prior to the marriage she is to be having. A marriage in which she feels nothing more but chose out of propriety. Mark... he is like, oh man, THE BEST. Like, he is probably of the books I've read my favorite of Mrs. Matthews' men. He is 30, good looking, a clergy man, but so warm, opening, kind, and was a best friend to Beryl. Most people shy away from friends to lovers stories, and I tend to enjoy them if written correctly. Let me tell you, this was written so well that I saw stars. Stars and then followed by rainbows of happiness. ( There is a dog involved, which also made me gush because that little dog is so cute that I can't. ) It took me two hours to read this all in one sitting, so it is short but oh god, it was so perfect. As someone with GAD this made me feel all sorts of things, but lovely praise because it was so well done and so flipping perfect. The subject nature ; the warmth, empathy, kindness and most of all love shone through and that's what is needed in these times. I will most certainly be recommending this book to all my friends.
5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I loved it! Mimi Matthews writing is always richly detailed and resonant with period details. She captures my heart. Drawing me into the story as if I’m there. Besides being honorable, charming and romantic, this story is about so much more. It’s about melancholy and the myths of a cure. I struggled with depression for years and didn’t want to tell anyone. It was a secret. People will treat you different, judge you. And it’s something everyone seems to have advice about, especially those who don’t suffer from it. ✋🏼🎤 I had all the feelings in this one and still got the HEA. I highly recommend this book because it reminds why I still read. I’ve already purchased this book but this was a NETGALLEY gift and all opinions are my own.
With her usual brilliance for drawing the reader into both her story world and her characters' unique voices, Mimi Matthews has placed herself at the top of the list in her genre. Each of her books has captured me from Chapter One and Fair as a Star is no exception. I found her depiction of the hero, in particular, to be so honest and freshly crafted, not like the caricatures of pastors so often found in similar period pieces. And her honest, yet sensitive handling of mental illness in the heroine was especially moving. The only complaint I have is that since I read it the same afternoon it hit my Kindle I have to wait so long for her next offering!
Mimi Matthews' latest work, "Fair as a Star" is a touching and altogether satisfying read chronicling Beryl Burnham's struggles with chronic depression and others' reaction to it. From outward disbelief and preposterous cures (having babies, really?), the condition known as melancholy then was little understood. The hero Mark Rivenhall is, in my opinion, a SUPERhero. A compassionate and thoughtful man, he is perfectly suited to his profession as curate. His delicate and intuitive treatment of Beryl and her illness brought literal tears to my eyes more than once. While Ernest would probably win a "World's Ugliest Dog" contest today, he is endearing and his misbehavior is rather humorous. Beryl and Mark's romance unfolds gently and believably. All characters are pleasantly nuanced. I love Matthews' writing style. This novel is clean. The skill known as "whitework" is recounted here, Beryl's particular talent. Although I don't know if this will be a series, Winnie and Dr. Black deserve their own tale. Sir Henry merits one too; he totally surprised me near the end! Thanks to NetGalley and Perfectly Proper Press for a copy of this wonderful novel.
A well written romance dealing with a difficult topic. Beryl and her aunt arrive back from Paris to start planning Beryl’s marriage to Henry. Mark is a curate, Henry‘s brother and a long time friend of Beryl’s. Mark is also one of the best heroes that I’ve read recently. He listens, finds solutions, reads Dickens and doesn’t see Beryl as broken. The medical profession’s ideas on treating depression, a mother wanting everything to be perfect and a fiancé who thinks he thinks he knows what’s best for everyone created believable tension and kept me turning the pages. I received an ARC from NetGalley.
Is there anything better than a new Mimi Matthews story? Not much in my world. This beautiful story doesn’t feel like a novella because the characters are so rich. In fact, I feel like there should be more stories set in this universe featuring any of the secondary characters - they have much unfinished business. I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this review copy. This review is my own. My favourite romances are the ones that make me cry before the main characters get their HEA and this one did. I absolutely loved it. In any novel/novella I have read that deals with depression, it has always been the male character that experiences It but in this case it is the heroine. I though it dealt with this topic realistically and showed how hard it was for a women at this time in history if they were even perceived to be “hysterical” I fully intend to read more of Mimi Matthew’s now having read this novella.
Mimi Matthews writes nonfiction history books as well as historic romance. I normally don't read historic romance but Matthews is such a great writer that I have read all her books. Her writing style is great and the books address serious issues in a very thoughtful way. Fair as a Star is about Beryl Burnham, her family and two brothers (Mark and Sir Henry). There is a secret that Beryl struggles with during the book, eventually disclosing the details to Mark. Without spoilers, this book deals with the secret and its impact in a wonderful way that seems consistent but thoughtful for the time period. All the primary and secondary characters are well developed = think its a sign of a great book because I would love to read stories about the rest of the main characters. Overall, the book is great and the resolution is sweet but realistic in an awesome way. I give this book highest ratings and strongly recommend! I would recommend any Matthews book for readers!
Mimi Mathews never ceases to impress me with her talent. How she manages to be a lawyer, historian, and find time to write books like this I do not know. Fair as a Star is a Victorian era novella full of romance. I am typically not a novella person and tend to read such stories only from authors I trust. I was not disappointed here. This was a beautiful story with well developed characters and a solid conclusion. Mental health was also a topic nicely presented in a realistic manner. 5 stars from me.
I think Mimi Matthews can write a romance with a wonderful and natural flow to the story. Plus, make the story rich in historical detail while not being cumbersome. I feel as if I can step back in time when I read a Mimi Matthews historical novel. The Victorian times were a hard time to be a woman and this story does address that. However, there is still hope in the story and a hea. We get a glimpse into history with beliefs and attitudes of the day. There is great dialogue. Thought this was a novella I still felt I got a complete story without any part of the storyline being rushed. In the begining the H & h stories were in quite a pickle. I wondered how the author would untangle it all in a satsifying and believable way. I feel she very much so achieved that end. I love this quote and think it a beautful sentiment. "All the beauty you see before you is on account of the flaws. Were it perfect, it would have no color at all. No value, certainly not to me."
This book was so lovely. I loved the secret romance along with the growing of the characters and truly finding a way to be happy amidst the struggles that she was faced with.
Fair as a Star Mimi Matthews continues to impress me with each new story that she publishes. This novella completely captivated me! The characters are complex and well developed and the plot is so unique that it kept me invested. The romance was perfection as always! Beryl was so refreshingly different from the usual heroines! I absolutely loved her growth, and her journey to finding happiness. Mark was perfection. This novella reads like a novel! It didn’t feel too short even though I always want more! It’s hard to develop a novella that is well balanced and has really well written characters and Mimi Matthews has expertly crafted this one. I absolutely recommend picking up this novella if you are a historical romance fan! It was fantastic.
Mimi Matthews is one of my favorite romance authors. Her stories are very heartfelt and emotional and this one was no exception. The main character, Beryl, struggles with depression, at a time when it was very much misunderstood and shamed in society. I thought the author's tackling of this issue in a historical romance was so compassionately done. Mark, the local curate and Beryl's long time friend, has loved her for years. But she is engaged to his older brother. If you like a good pining story, this has some good longing going on. But what makes this love triangle work is that Mark genuinely loves Beryl for exactly who she is, without trying to "fix" her. That love truly carries the story. Like all of Mimi Matthews' stories, I was left with a warm and full heart after reading Fair as a Star. I do hope there's a future story for Winnifred and Dr. Black as well!
4.5/5.0 This is historical romance at it’s ultimate best! And I’m most usually not a fan of unrequited love stories. But, this story is just so endearingly lovely that I couldn’t help but be touched, softened and delightfully enchanted.
Mimi Matthews’ writing is sublime. This one deals with a heavy subject yet it’s worked into the story with ease, never overwhelming the romance aspect. Mark is as good as they come; supportive, loving, assertive when needed. He doesn’t “handle” Beryl’s challenges, preferring to help her manage them. Beryl finds courage during her journey in understanding herself. “All the beauty you see before you is on account of the flaws.”
Mimi Matthews has continued to impress me with each book she writes. In this case we have a novella. Novellas are not a favorite if mine. They're usually too short to develop any real connections between characters. Everything happens too fast to be believed. You have no time to connect to the characters before the story is over . Mimi Matthews has managed to bring all that about in a novella. The character development, the emotion, the conflict in this story had me hooked right from the start. You could feel the connection between Beryl and Mark. This was even in 2 of the secondary characters of Winnifred and Dr. Black. (Hoping to see their story next). Miss Matthews also takes the time to address depression, explaining how the illness can affect certain people, how it was viewed and how it was treated. When I finished I felt like I had read an entire book and was totally satisfied Great story, highly reccomended. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was my first book by Mimi Matthews and I can't wait to read more! Fair as a Star is such a touching love story. Once I started reading, I didn't want it to end.
Fair as a Star is a gentle, beautiful love story between a troubled young Victorian woman and her childhood friend, a clergyman. Matthews is to be commended for her nuanced handling of what modern doctors would call clinical depression and what the Victorians called melancholy. There is no anachronism in sight, in language or attitudes, and there are some delightful surprises as Matthews subverts the reader’s expectations of certain romantic tropes (I won’t mention them specifically in order to avoid ruining other readers’ enjoyment). This novella is worthy of a Dickens story like The Pickwick Papers, which Matthew’s hero and heroine bond over as youngsters and which the author uses to good effect in her depictions of light and dark (the symbolism works on many levels but is never heavy-handed). At the same time, the different attitudes characters have about mental illness offer much that is relevant in today’s world. With a delicate touch, Matthews offers a timeless parable about loving and accepting others for who they are, flaws and all.
Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews is a superb Victorian romance. I’ve been dealing with a bit of depression lately and hit a slight reading slump. The cure for both my depression and reading slump apparently was to read this book! I actually laughed out loud when I got a few pages in and realized that one of the main conflicts in this story is depression. My husband chuckled when I told him and said, “Sounds like the book was written just for you.” Mimi Matthews has no idea who I am, but I do believe that when authors write the stories they do it’s because God has a reader in mind. Fair as a Star was a book God wanted me to read! There is so much to love about this story. The plot is highly engaging. This is one of those books where you say to yourself, “Just one more chapter. Oh! End of the chapter. I can do one more.” The characters are superbly written. I especially relate to Beryl and her emotional issues. In fact, there are moments in this story where Beryl’s inner dialogue and her confessions felt like deja vu. I know what this character is going through because I’ve been there! I appreciate the historical illustration of how Victorian society felt about depression and the various methods to effect a “cure,” but it is Mark’s strategies for helping Beryl that I truly love. Not only do his strategies show common sense and selflessness, but they also illustrates what a superior hero Mark is in this novel. And ladies, Mark is a superior hero! Boy, did I swoon a few times. Which leads me to what I love the most about this story — the relationship between Mark and Beryl. It’s perfect. They are longtime friends who slowly figure out that they are more. I found their progress from friends to lovers perfectly paced and quite believable. In roughly 200 pages, Matthews is able to pack quite the punch. She delves into such topics as depression, gossip, faith, societal expectations, friendship, love, and respect. My favorite discussion is in regards to personal flaws. Beryl is very honest about her flaws, but she is a bit presumptuous in that she believes she needs to be flawless in order for someone to love her. She tries so hard to hide the dark side of herself and only show the light side that she runs away from home for one year so no one sees her personal battle. That’s quite an extraordinary length to go to to prevent others from seeing a character flaw! Yes, it is good for us to recognize our sins and shortcomings, and it is excellent of us to try to rectify those issues. But to pretend at perfection is never the answer. Being the “perfect” person we think society, family, and friends want is exhausting. The only being ever to be perfect is Jesus. We can do our best to emulate Him, but we will never be able to be perfect this side of Heaven. If someone cannot accept you for your good AND bad, then that someone isn’t capable of loving you. It’s the one who can accept your bad with your good who is able to illustrate true love. Remember, love covers a multitude of sins. Love doesn’t ever throw your sins in your face. Not only is this a great lesson for Beryl to learn, but it’s a great reminder for us readers, too! Fair as a Star is a superb novel that I cannot recommend enough. This is another home run by Mimi Matthews; one you won’t want to miss! I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from Perfectly Proper Press via NetGalley in order to review. I also pre-ordered an eBook copy of this novel from Amazon.com as well. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Gossip swirls around the countryside village of Shepton Worthy when Beryl Burnham finally returns from an extended stay in Paris. Dressed in couture dresses by her generous aunt and engaged to Sir Henry, the lord of the local manor, Beryl has nothing but happiness looming in her future. What then could have made a young woman stay away from home for close to a year? (Or was it nine months?) And why is it that she continues to mope about? What could she possibly be running from? And why is it that the only person who seems to understand is Sir Henry's younger brother, the curate? Mark Rivenhall never yearned to enter the Church, but his compassionate nature makes him a sympathetic friend and a wonderful counselor. When he sees Beryl back in Shepton Worthy, he can barely hide the beating of his heart under his black cassock. Still, it's impossible to be more than a friend to her--older brother Henry has made clear his claim on her. Concealing his affections, Mark determines to find a way to support Beryl in her melancholy, not to "fix" her as so many others seem determined to do, and the first step on his plan is to give the woman a dog... This short but perfect novella has an understated hero that is nothing like the alpha males of most romances. Mark Rivenhall is thoughtful, kind, restrained, and yes, romantic. His sincerity and empathy contrast with his brother Henry's callous and calculating nature (and yet Henry is a well-rounded character despite that, as so many of Mimi Matthews' secondary characters are). Mark is the man you rarely meet in the pages of a historical novel, but also the man that you would actually want beside you "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer." In short, Mark Rivenhall, Victorian curate, is the man real romances are made of. Recommended. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews is an excellent historical fiction romance that was stunning from beginning to end. Set in the the 1860s countryside England, we are introduced to many characters within a small, local village. Here we get to experience the very awkward and difficult dilemma between brothers Henry and Mark and a woman that both are interested in: beautiful,complicated, and golden Beryl, albeit for different reasons. All have their own difficulties and secrets that they are each grappling with, and it all comes to a head, and yet also a beautifully satisfying resolution and conclusion by the end. Getting to experience the alternating thoughts of Mark and Beryl, the reader feels as if they are actually there amongst the blossoms and the summertime breeze of the village. The author created such beautiful visions of landscapes, and also brought forth such forces of emotions that at times rendered me nervous, excited, saddened, but ultimately happy. I loved the growth of the characters involved, and I loved Mark and Beryl, faults and all. Such a beautiful and heartwarming story about love, sacrifice, faith, loss, acceptance, forgiveness, duty, loyalty, and also mental illness. Such a wonderful book. 5/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Perfectly Proper Press for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication. This is my first book that I have had the privilege to read by this author, and it has made me most certainly a huge fan!
With each and every Mimi Matthews story that I read, I am more impressed with her writing. I am generally not a huge fan of novellas because I always want more and they always seem too quick - the romance, the conflict - everything. While Fair as a Star is a novella, it did not read like a one. It had so much more depth and emotion than what you would normally find. I mean I did want more when it was done, but I was also completely satisfied. Oh my - Mark - moral, upright, kind, understanding, patient, do you get where I’m going here? What a wonderful character! I also really liked Beryl. I loved her strength and her depth. Beryl suffered from depression and I loved how Ms. Mathews handled this subject. Don’t miss this wonderfully written romance or any other Mimi Mathews stories! They are all excellent! I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Mimi Matthews is one of my favorite authors. Her books are full of characters who draw me in and make me care about them. They are often vulnerable, have experienced pain or heartache, but they are never bitter or selfish. They are worthy of respect and admiration for their goodness. Beryl and Mark have been friends (and soul mates) for years. They both want to do the right thing, and thus have made sacrifices to please their families. It was sad to feel the pain and secret love they shared, but it kept me engaged to find out if and how they would get together. I love that it happened without hurting those they loved. The setting and historical details are lovely. The secondary characters were well developed, even though it was a short book. I enjoyed every minute of this book! #FairasaStar #NetGalley
Anything new from Mimi Matthews is reason to celebrate, and Fair as a Star might be her most accomplished yet. It's a simple story of a young woman preparing for her marriage — or so it seems. Because Beryl Burnham, despite her engagement to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, is hardly as happy as someone in her enviable position should be. She is back from Paris with little to worry her but her upcoming nuptials. Slowly, peeling back the story in a delicious manner, we begin to understand that Beryl's life is more complicated than it appears. The trip to Paris was not a pleasure jaunt. Sir Henry is a fine man, but what about his younger brother, Mark, the local curate? Through this love story, Matthews takes the reader through an understanding of the complexities of depression and the attitudes toward it in the Victorian Age (surprisingly, not as different as we might think). We see a hero who is determined to act with honor but who struggles to see where that honor will lie. He is the spouse everyone must want — someone who loves his partner as is, not to fix, mend or otherwise improve, but to support. It is a really moving love story, one in which the characters are not at odds, don't have silly misunderstandings and act with good sense even as they struggle to find their way. It is testament to her skill as a writer that she resolves the love story with no betrayal or bitterness. This is a story that will stay with you, and be read again. (I received an ARC from NetGalley. Opinions mine.)
I am convinced that Mimi Matthews can only write five-star books! Even when the subject matter is something that would normally make a book harder for me to read she makes me love every second of it! Beryl and Mark’s romance was sweet perfection and I was melting! The way Mark gently cared for her and loved her, not in spite of her shortcomings, but because of who they made her to be! While everyone else tried to dismiss or fix her depression he sought to just shoulder the load with her and give her someone to lean on! Writing a character that deals with depression is a tricky thing but Matthews did it exceedingly well, spotlighting the illness and not dismissing it while also not bogging the reader down or making the character hard to like. Once again Matthews charmed me from start to finish and I found myself reading this whole book in one sitting! Now to count the days till her next book releases!
This is a stunning novella. At only 194 pages, I zipped through reading this and my only regret was that the story did not continue. I wanted more. Henry was definitely self-absorbed, Beryl loves Mark, Mark loves Beryl. The reader knows that if Beryl marries Henry it will be a disaster. Also Beryl's secret plays a role in all relationships. I must not leave out mention of the wisest character, Earnest. I truly liked this novella and the light it shown on Beryl's secret. Mimi Matthews never disappoints in her beautiful writing, superbly nuanced characters and absorbing plots. I highly recommend this book to all romance fans.
I've become a rabid Mimi Matthews fan in the past year...and Fair as a Star only increased my love for her stories! I love her writing voice, her characters, the Regency details she weaves in. But in this particular story, what I loved most was the "melancholia" angle...or what we'd call depression or acute anxiety today. It's not something you read about often in novels, and especially not in historical novels. But in this book, it was threaded in so thoughtfully and realistically. I loved the hero's compassion and the heroine's quiet strength and their romance was as swoony as it was compelling. Mimi Matthews is an auto-buy/auto-read author for me and I can't wait to see what she delivers next!
Beryl Burnham returns home to Shepton Worthy, after a length sojourn in Paris. Whilst betrothed to Sir Henry Rivenhall, it is his brother Mark Rivenhall, the village curate, that she has a strong friendship. Yet Mark has hidden his true feelings for Beryl, having fallen in love with her several years ago. However, his friendship has never been so important as Beryl struggles with her darkest moments. ‘There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast’. This Dicken’s quote from the novel, highlights the underlying nature of this book. Beryl’s struggle with depression are assisted by the true beauty of her friendship and love for Mark. This is not your typical historical romance. Its depth of feeling and ability to delve into the fragility of Beryl’s mental health, are done with great sensitivity and compassion. I thoroughly enjoyed both characters and their obvious love and respect for each other. In many ways, the siblings – Winnifred (Beryl’s sister) and Henry in their less than perfect ways, gave greater realism to this story. They do so balance out the goodness of Beryl and Mark! My only disappointment was that this was a short story but I eager await more books in this series. I am also so looking forward to reading ‘Gentleman Jim’, the excerpt provided at the end of this book. Once again, Mimi Matthews has excelled! I received an ARC from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.
Mimi Matthews has done it again! I am always in awe of her writing and how she's so realistically talks about issues that were both prevalent and handled so differently in the Victorian era. As someone who suffers from a mental illness that results in long episodes of depression, its amazing to me to read how people dealt with these issues over 100 years ago (although some people aren't much more understanding today!) I absolutely loved Mark and his calm, patient and accepting approach to Beryl's battles with melancholy. I found Beryl a very relatable character with her insecurities about being unlovable due to her bouts of low mood. I also enjoyed the interactions with Henry, Dr. Black and Winifred and look forward to read more from them, hopefully (especially Black and Winnie!!) Once again, Mimi has written a book that is an absolute gift to read and I'm eagerly awaiting her next release! 5stars!
After a mysterious sojourn of a year in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy--or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl's life isn't as perfect as everyone believes. As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother's intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark's more than willing to provide one. There's no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago. A lovely, lovely read, beautifully written & it deals so sensitively with mental illness. A short read but certainly packs a punch, Strong believable characters I loved Beryl & Mark, she's dealing with melancholy & feels a failure but he's so understanding, caring & steadfast, he showed how much he cared by the ring he gave Beryl & why – a definite hankie moment. They are perfect for each other. The secondary characters were also very well portrayed & I’d love for them to have their stories. The book flowed effortlessly & I read it in a sitting. My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read
What a wonderful book!!!! Mrs Matthews is so talented!!! She writes her book with such a beautiful style that reading her stories is a pleasure!!!!!Lol
Thank you net galley for the advance reader copy of this novella. This author has written a superb Victorian romance about a woman struggling with depression and a vicar who loves her. The two over some other obstacles for a happily ever after. I can't wait for the rest of historians hope Henry gets his HE A and Winni and Mr Black do too. Loved the little dog Earnest!
I've heard a lot about Mimi Matthews' books over the last year and was so excited when I saw this on Netgalley and could finally see what everyone was talking about. This book didn't disappoint. When I realized it was about depression I kept putting off reading it because I wasn't in the mood for a depressing book. This was not depressing at all. It held my interest from the beginning. I loved Beryl. Yes, she suffered from chronic depression, but she didn't let that define her. She was so much more and ended up having a lot more pluck than I expected. Mark was wonderful. There is no one better to love her than him. I just loved his character, whether he was talking to Beryl, helping parishioners, talking with his brother or confronting husbands. He was awesome. I loved their story. I really hope the series stays in Shepton Worthy and we get to read Winifred's story, as well as Henry's. I think both those stories need telling. I received a complimentary copy through Netgalley, but the opinions are all my own.
Fair as a Star is a historical novel set in a sleepy English village in 1864. Beryl Burnham has just returned home from a year in Paris, and she is about to enter into a marriage of convenience with the area's most eligible bachelor, Henry Rivenhall. Unfortunately, she has strong feelings for his brother, Mark, who is village curate. As Beryl struggles with her feelings, she also deals with a feeling of shame about the melancholia that has been part of her life since she was young. I wanted to read this novel because I love Mimi Matthews' books. I was also intrigued by the title for this new series - Victorian Romantics. In school I loved Victorian literature, so this definitely caught my interest. I have to say that Fair as a Star is my favorite Mimi Matthews book yet! I love the characters, especially Beryl, who is so sweet, sincere, and sometimes tentative. Mark is one of the best book boyfriends I've "met" in recent years. He is the polar opposite of Henry (who is so cool and unemotional) and even knows that Beryl's life would be better with a little dog! The storytelling and romanticism are lovely. For instance: "His strong fingers brushed the bare nape of her neck. Soft. Tender. It was almost a caress. Enough to send a delicate shiver down Beryl’s spine. Mark must have felt it, too, for he quickly removed his hand. It seemed as though he might have said something more, but in that same instant, a gentle gust of wind caught his tall hat from the pile at his side. It tumbled down over the grassy slope of the riverbank, coming to a halt on a cluster of flowering weeds. He made no effort to chase it. She looked up at him in question. His expression turned wry. 'There are few moments in a man’s existence when he experiences so much ludicrous distress as when he is in pursuit of his own hat.' A slow smile spread over her face. 'The Pickwick Club,' she said, temporarily diverted. 'I’m amazed you can recite it so readily.'" (Kindle position 662) Sigh -- romance and Dickens quotes! I only wish this relatively short book had lasted longer ... it was such a lovely read. The love story was slow building and swooping at once. There was some humor (i.e. the naughty but lovable little dog Ernest). The author also deals sensitively with the social theme of depression during the Victorian era. I cannot recommend Fair as a Star highly enough for fans of Victorian England, historical fiction, and beautifully written old fashioned love stories!
Mimi Matthews has given us a beautiful and brave Victorian heroine in Beryl Burnham, a young woman who has spent a year in Paris and now returns to her village of Shelton Worthy. She should be thrilled with her engagement to Sir Henry Rivenhall, but life seems to have lost its sparkle for her, She also renews her friendship with Mark, the village curate, who happens to be Henry’s younger brother. Mark has secretly loved Beryl for years, but would never do anything to hurt his brother. Both Beryl and Mark seem to be people of integrity and faith, and Mark’s love for Beryl was romantic and charming. However, this is where Mimi Matthews takes this story to another level, and separates it from other Victorian fiction you might read.: Beryl suffers from “melancholy”. Today she would be diagnosed as clinically depressed. I liked how the author has Beryl deal with her depression. Beryl acknowledges it; realizes there’s no cure for it; and lives her life in the best way she knows how looks for ways to be of service to others. The author treats this subject with grace and kindness, allowing us to see it as another reason that Beryl is an outstanding, caring young lady. If you love reading clean, sweet fiction set during this time period, you’ll love Mark and Beryl’s story. I’ve officially become a Mimi Matthews fan after reading this book. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
VERDICT From the best-selling author of the “Paris Orphans of Devon” series comes a compassionate treatment of a heroine with a condition not commonly addressed in the historical romance subgenre. This, combined with Mark’s romantic gestures toward Beryl, results in a kindhearted love story that will delight anyone who longs to be loved without limits. Highly recommended.
Beautifully written gentle Victorian HR, about Beryl Burnham, eldest daughter of a genteel but impoverished widow, in the village of Shepton Worthy. She is betrothed to local Squire Henry Rivenhall, she left the village just after Jack Rivenhall, Henry's middle brother had died and has just returned from a year in Paris with her Aunt Hortensia. Beryl may seem to have the perfect mix of beauty, intelligence and kindness, but she also suffers from clinical depression, which was very much misunderstood at the time. As soon as Beryl returns, with her bridal trousseau in tow, she is the subject of nasty gossip and innuendo, and when she has an episode of melancholy, she needs support, and Mark Rivenhall, the local curate and Henry's younger brother shows her the compassion and understanding she doesn't receive from any one else. As her feelings change from friendship and affection to love, how can she manage her feelings and extricate herself from her betrothal, so they can find their HEA. This was beautifully done, with Beryl's interactions with most people showing how this illness was so misunderstood, even by doctor's at the time, and how women who suffered in particular, had to endure horrible treatments and attitudes from the general population about how they should just snap out of it, and how childbirth or other occupation would 'cure' them. In the character of Mark, and his lovely quoting from The Pickwick Papers we have a balance and counterpoint to the misunderstandings and lack of compassion that Beryl faces, and a lovely romance to boot. Just Lovely. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book an all opinions are my own.