A Holiday by Gaslight
by Mimi Matthews
A Dutiful Daughter
Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run of the mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things. After all, even a dutiful daughter has her limits.
A Taciturn Tradesman
Ned has come a long way since his days working as a draper’s assistant. He’s wealthy, ambitious, and eager to take a wife. But the courtship advice issued in The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he’s followed it to the letter, Miss Appersett still doesn’t wish to see him again. Frustrated and hurt, he’s more than happy to oblige her.
A Christmas Courtship
Severing ties with her former beau isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to the annual Christmas party at Appersett House and give him one more chance to win her? But this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.
I can’t seem to get enough of Historical Romance lately, and being the huge lover of Christmas that I am I couldn’t resist a tale set during the most festive time of the year.
Sophie Appersett is the dutiful daughter of a once wealthy man who spent her dowry on improving the Appersett estate with gas lighting. While her younger sister Emily, the beauty of the family, is primed to be the daughter who marries for title, Sophie is being courted by wealthy London merchant Edward Sharpe with her father hoping that their marriage will solve the financial troubles he has brought upon their family.
Sophie has long had to make sacrifices to satisfy her selfish father and spoiled sister, but she breaks off her courtship with Edward when, after two months, it becomes clear to her they have nothing in common. To her surprise, Edward seems genuinely heartbroken, and so the two agree to renew a tentative courtship during the Christmas festivities to be celebrated at the Appersett’s Derbyshire estate. What follows is a romance that will appeal to any fans of novels such as North and South or Shades of Milk and Honey.
Mimi Matthews is an author I’d like to read more of; her writing was so easy to gulp down, it only took me an hour or so to read this novella, and yet she still developed characters I cared about in a fairly short space of time.
I can’t say there was anything particularly groundbreaking or original about A Holiday by Gaslight – handsome yet taciturn heroes and heroines who love to read are hardly new, particularly amongst Pride and Prejudice fans – but it didn’t need to be either of those things to be an enjoyable story. In fact for a story far more focused on the romance than the history, I still really appreciated the amount of history Matthews wrote into it; we have characters who are very aware of the changing world they’re in, from advancements in technology to Darwin’s theory of evolution to the sudden death of Prince Albert, meaning this novella felt like a novella set in the 19th century and not a novella featuring characters wearing 19th century pantomime costume.
Even discussions of child mortality and the work of Charles Dickens further helped to make this story feel more genuine, and if Matthews can pack all of this into a novella I’d love to see what she can do with a whole novel.
My only real complaint would be that I didn’t feel as though Sophie’s father was ever punished for his behaviour at all. He acts quite cruelly towards Sophie during one particular scene and I would have liked to see him put in his place as the greedy little man he is.
If you’re in the mood for some Historical Romance, however, and you’re especially in the mood for something short and sweet this winter, A Holiday by Gaslight is one I’d recommend!