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Parish Orphans of Devon #2

A Modest Independence

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He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

400 pages, ebook

First published April 23, 2019

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About the author

Mimi Matthews

20 books2,664 followers
USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances, including The Siren of Sussex, a 2023 RUSA Reading List shortlist pick for Best Romance; Fair as a Star, a Library Journal Best Romance of 2020; Gentleman Jim, a Kirkus Best Book of 2020; and The Work of Art, winner of the 2020 HOLT Medallion. Her novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

**I only rate the books I love.**

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 418 reviews
722 reviews306 followers
October 25, 2019
(2.5 stars) Well, darn. I hate writing this review because, quite frankly, Mimi Matthews, Jayne Fresina and less than a handful of other HR authors are the only reason for me to read newly-published romances. The first book in Matthews' Parish Orphans series, A MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT, was so lovely that I gave it 5 stars. Her holiday novella was also superb. But this second entry in the Orphans series fell flat for me. I was actually bored as I read what seemed to be a how-to-travel-to-India-in-1860 guide mixed with a tepid romance. In spite of the author's seeming attempts to make the romance her warmest one to date, with more kissing and more mutual expressions of caring, I didn't get any feels.

Heroine Jenny Holloway was a secondary in the first book of the series. As companion to that book's heroine, Lady Helena, she was an intrepid and take-charge woman who met lawyer Tom Finchley (our hero here) for the first time as she worked towards protecting Lady Helena from an unscrupulous uncle. Both she and Tom ended up getting Helena and Tom's orphan friend Justin Thornhill paired romantically.

Now Jenny has been given "a modest independence" of 5000 pounds by Lady Helena and she plans to use it for freedom and independence and to get away from the constraints of life in England. She's going to travel to India and, while there, try to find out what really happened to Helena's brother Giles, 6th Earl of Castleton, British military captain presumed dead in an uprising. No body was ever recovered. Perhaps he is still alive.

Naturally Jenny thinks she can just up and go to India all by herself, without even a lady's companion. And, naturally, Tom thinks he knows best and that that is inappropriate. So he hires two British-national Indians to accompany her and even decides he's going to go along also. After all, he's a man and can get things done that she could not.

Fine. That should work in a romance. Two book characters traveling together are bound to fall in love, right? Problem is that I might have cared if Tom and Jenny had been the same people in this book that I had thought they were in the first. Unfortunately, they both seemed to have undergone some sort of partial personality lobotomy and were much less interesting people here.

Not to mention the travelogue, ship here, train there, other modes of transportation here and there. It was about as exciting as watching Rick Steves on the Travel Channel. Although it was obvious that a good deal of careful research had gone into detailing our H and h's itinerary, with sights, sounds and food, the telling of it was dull.

I guess I've read too many books. This ain't my first rodeo traveling by novel to exotic climes in the 1800s. Maybe if I had never before moved out of the usual English HR setting, this would have been more exciting, or at least interesting, to me.

As for the romance, there was a good deal more kissing and conversation about feelings than usual in a Matthews' romance, but, dear lord, those conversations were so circular and led to absolutely nowhere. Yes, they have feelings for each other, maybe even love. Yes, they desire each other physically. But...no way it can come to anything. Jenny wants her independence. She doesn't want to marry. When their journey is over, the relationship is over.

How many times did I have to read the same conversation over and over in an endless loop? Answer: too many times to count, plus having to read annoying internal musings by H and h about the same thing.

Ah, well. This one didn't work for me, but I see that it worked extremely well for many other readers. So this could again be one of those "It's not the book, it's me" problems.
Profile Image for Rachel McMillan.
Author 25 books1,058 followers
March 5, 2019
Oh hi everyone! have you always wanted to read what goes through my mind 24 hours a day?

Welcome to this book: aka the Heart of Rachel's lifelong issues reconciling her desire for independence and not conforming to anything and not being caged as well as being a hopeless romantic.

I mean hello thing I might have said myself:
"I don't want to spend the rest of my life wondering who I might have been if only I'd had a little time on my own. A chance to exert myself in a manner of my own choosing without reference to the expectations of a father or a brother or an employer Without that, how could I ever commit myself to anyone? It wouldn't be fair to you or to myself."

I think that everyone has those books that they sink into feeling each word was written for them. Much in the same way that Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood challenged me to confront questions and validated me in so many ways... so Modest Independence made me feel like I had a sense of purpose and community. That I was not alone.

The best books are the ones that grab us, tug us in, and introduce us to characters who become friends but also act as mouthpieces for the feelings, thoughts and doubts that are rampant through our mind.

Those who know me and follow me on social media know that after I finished the amazing Matrimonial Advertisement, I gobbled up Matthews's previous books. They are all lovely. But this... this book is something more. This book is one of the books that crawled so deeply inside me that it was the best reading experience. The type of experience that makes me crave more like it and makes every other book taste flat for weeks after.

Revisiting peripheral characters from Matrimonial Advertisement (though the book can be read as a standalone), Jenny Holloway, a former lady's maid is given a rare dream: the means to live a comfortably independent life away from servitude. It is not that Jenny was unhappy as companion to Lady Helena, rather that a constricted upbringing as a minister's daughter at the whim and will of men with poor judgment has made her feel caged. While Jenny is attracted to the idea of sharing a communion of minds with another soul---perhaps even her new barrister and friend Tom Finchley--- she wants a taste of liberty, to travel...to make choices long denied her.

She visits Tom who is to handle her affairs and arranges a trip to Colonial India via Egypt in hopes of tasting a bit of the world and spreading her horizons but also of locating Lady Helena's long-lost brother (believed dead) Giles, Earl of Castleton.

Tom Finchley, smart, bookish and reserved is an orphan whose greatest wish is the tenderness denied him due to his lack of family. Although Jenny and Tom have swum in similar social circles and he is attracted to her, nothing in his forthright or to-the-letter nature will allow him to take advantage of a woman when he is married to his cause, his mentor, and the law.

So, after a fateful night when Tom falls asleep on the sofa in Jenny's parlour after a late business meeting and he feels the grace of her hand on his hair, he spirals his life into a different direction and accompanies her on the trip across the world.

What we have here is not a slow burn romance of the will-they-won't-they type or the kind that is rift with misunderstandings because there is a long trail to open communication. Instead, we're given a romance that is wrapped in a soft philosophy: encouraging the reader to go to places--figuratively and emotionally-and mull on the nature of love while gorgeous settings unfurl in a perfectly worded canvas.

This is not a typical romantic experience --at least as far as the rational aspect is concerned. The setting, the sights and smells and sense of adventure tug the reader into a romantic atmosphere of its initial sense while Tom and Jenny confront growing attraction pitted against their deepest desires. Both crave a life of independence. Both are afraid of submission. Both want control. Both very much desire the other.

Both meeting in the middle of separate and very different circumstances while recognizing the counterbalance of what makes them well suited. Alike. "The same rules and expectations that give you strength were a prison to me. They didn't make me feel as if I had power. They robbed me of my power. Perhaps it's so for all women. Our lives are a series of cages: daughter, wife, mother. It isn't a structure designed for being oneself."

Couched in scenes and conversations both vulnerable and introspective and fraught with the tug-and-pull tension of challenged willpower and restraint, Tom and Jenny traverse reconciling their dreams and desires with their ultimately growing attraction and ANGELS HAVE COME TO BLESS US ALL talk about it EVERY LAST STEP OF THE WAY!

They respect each other enough to lay their cards down as equals. As they leave England for Calais, as they train through France and onward to the ocean and a too-tight steam packet that finds them again and again in close quarters exploring the physical tenets of their mutual desire to feel some romance, tenderness, passion even while keeping the other carefully at bay.

Everything in this book is perfectly outlined in a series of moments that are timeless in a reader's pursuit of understanding the multi-faceted layers of our natures. I identified SO deeply with two people who want to step into love and choose it and find companionship while still so deeply clinging to the independence they have earned. The hard fought for and achingly won ability to see the world and find new experiences and mould the world to themselves rather than have them shaped by circumstances forged outside of their control.

I so deeply connected with this book and it reached such a vulnerable place inside me that I felt myself checking if my apartment was bugged and someone had read my late night diaries, had peeked into my brain, had cut open parts of my heart.

And it is so beautifully shaped--- this exploration of love and submission, of the strength and beauty of independent thought and the deep-rooted desire to explore every corner of the earth. So resplendent a story when wielded by a pen that is as comfortable in gas lit London or a lawyer's office or a train carriage or a tea room or the ridge's of India's hills. From Cairo to Devon, the reader feels immediately immersed. This book validated my passion of wanting to travel and experience and snap memories, even as it inspired me to look to where I need to let my guard down. It inspired the strongest parts of my personality and conviction and passion for independence while also reminding me of the grace of human interconnection. It takes a really powerful sense of story, place and resonant theme to spark so many questions while informing so much of what rattles around in your heart and mind as you reconcile your oddities while tugging out your vulnerable, romantic side.

And it is just so expertly written: the dialogue, the glances, the stolen touches. The POV shifts from Tom to Jenny that slice through the chapters are some of the best I have ever encountered because they are so unexpected: often mid-thought, often quick life a knife or slow as a crackling flame. (Flame imagery plays a major motif in the book: matching well the sun-spanned settings Tom and Jenny encounter -- "Along with her glistening auburn hair, it gave her a look of greater than usual vibrancy. Like a candle in full flame")

It's so honest: one moment of tenderness for Tom opening the realization of all he has lost. Trust and passion are earned in slow steps: lemonade shared in a train car, removing the corset under a nightgown in shared occupancy, watching one read a newspaper, learning the little things that define the person you are allowing yourself to fall for on a timer before you rip off their influence and fling yourself into the independence you think you want. A small purchase at an Indian bazaar, a kept promise. A look of jealousy.

I can guarantee that A Modest Independence will make you think and feel and want and sigh. But I can also guarantee it is NOT like the other romance books on your shelf. This is a book to be savoured. This book is so perfectly meted to learning about love, about yourself, about confronting what you want and why and how you might allow yourself a slice---just a slice---of your strong-rooted nature to let someone else in.


note: the book does take us into British Occupied India and exotic locales where racism and prejudice was rampant in the Victorian age. Matthews's research and knowledge of the time period are a necessity here as she very gently and sensitively explores the obvious issues of dark occupation while never once painting caricatures.

My instagram stories have been nothing but quotes since I started reading: here are a few ---

"Because you respected my choice. You were willing to let me go in order to make me happy."
"You make me sound frightfully noble."
"You WERE noble."


"It's lately occurred to me that you and I have exhibited an infinite capacity for solving other people's problems. Surely, we can use a fraction of that ingenuity to solve our own. There must be a way we can both have what we want. We've only to set our minds to finding it."

OMG SPEAK TO MYSELF and my soul, Tom:
"Do you know I don't even believe it's the desire for independence that drives you. When it all comes down to it, what you are is afraid."


"Life was a series of choices--of sacrifices. In order to have Tom, she'd have to give up her freedom. The very independence she'd dreamed of for so many years. It was a price she she wasn't willing to pay. Not for him. Not for anyone"


"No one has ever accused me of being sweet before"
"Perhaps you haven't shown that side of yourself to anyone else the way you have to me?"


"Jenny found Tom's talents far more useful than those offered by the white knights and swashbuckling pirates that populated penny novels. dragon slaying and derring-do were all well and good, but in the modern world a lady required a different kind of heroism: which w asn't to say that Tom was incapable of slaying the occasional dragon"


"Love wouldn't be enough. One couldn't derive happiness entirely from another person, no matter how fond of that other person one might be."


"As marriage proposals wen, it was an unmitigated disaster [...]Had it been a legal strategy, Fothergill would have decried it as being impetuous, poorly thought out, and destined for failure"

"It was an ordinary sort of dream. So commonplace as to be no dream at all. Even so, the idea of it settled warmly in her stomach and heavily on her heart. It wasn't what she wanted in life, but the temptation of it was powerful. She felt at times it might be worth it to give up her dreams for adventure. That HE might be worth it."



"I know what I want and what I don't want. I suppose I've always known that. As for the rest..."
"What else is there?"
"Only the entire world!"




Profile Image for Karen.
805 reviews1,011 followers
May 9, 2019

That I'd give it all up to have you back with me. For one moment longer in your arms.

The inadequacy of words... indeed. I am truly loving these books. What an adventure this book was. And such a sweet love story. The research alone in putting this together blows me away. Mimi Mathews has really come into her own. This book was like a virtual trip back in time. A truly authentic victorian romance.

He pressed a kiss to her hair. “What’s all this about?” “I don’t know.” She tried to laugh, but couldn’t. “Pangs of longing, I suppose.”

But romance readers be aware... you will have to be quite patient in this one. The heroine will likely annoy you. She did me, but yet I understood her. And the hero will be too eager to please, too accommodating, yet he was perfect, just the same. And best of all, the ending will make it all worth it. I truly loved this. And I'm really looking forward to Alex Archer's story.
Profile Image for Linda .
1,809 reviews255 followers
April 18, 2019
Let me first say that I hadn’t read The Matrimonial Advertisement when I requested an arc for A Modest Independence. I was sold on the book editorials for both stories and my GR friends’ high ratings for Ms. Matthews’ other romances. I assumed I would like Thomas Finchley and Jenny Holloway when they were first introduced in The Matrimonial Advertisement. Tom oozed a quiet strength and sensibility. Jenny was opinionated and somewhat sharp. Unfortunately, whereas I enjoyed Justin Thornhill’s and Helena Reynold’s romance, I found I liked Tom’s and Jenny’s less so.

Tom was one of four orphans brought up in Abbott’s Holcombe; Justin Thornhill was another boy. At one point Tom was removed from his friends at the orphanage and raised by Mr. Fothergill, a solicitor. Tom was shy and serious. As he grew up, he put the importance of law first in his life. Finding someone to love had never been a priority.

When he met Jenny, she was unlike any other woman he had known. In his eyes, she was both strong and beautiful. He felt a deep purpose to help her fulfill any of her wishes. And he did in The Matrimonial Advertisement.

When A Modest Independence opened, Jenny was in need of her monies that her dear friend, Helena, had gifted her. And Tom controlled. She intended to travel to India to find Helena’s brother, Giles. Believed to be dead, she had surmised her own opinion and intended to discover the truth.

Jenny and Tom had two things in common: a new-found thirst for freedom and a dream to start their lives anew. Tom inveigled his way into her journey.

I found their story incorporated quite a bit of talking. I knew they had strong, romantic feelings for each other but their actual communication was anything but. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of small pieces of evidence. And now that I think of it, they came mostly from Tom. But the words they spoke- what the other remembered hearing- was ”affection wasn’t enough. Love wasn’t enough. One couldn’t derive happiness entirely from another person, no matter how fond of that other person one might be. In the absence of all else, how long before such fondness turned to bitterness and regret?” Honestly, after this same thought was recited for the umpteenth time, I no longer cared what happened to Jenny or Tom. I struggled to get to the end.

It might be ‘it’s me, not you’ but A Modest Independence was just not on par with The Matrimonial Advertisement. *I received a copy of A Modest Independence through NetGalley for an honest review. I appreciate Mimi Matthews and Perfectly Proper Press for the opportunity to read this story.*
Profile Image for Merry .
577 reviews53 followers
November 5, 2022
I finally finished this book. It was boring. I loved the first book and so looked forward to this one. It just dragged. The H/h traveled for months and I felt like I was there. Only it was a boring trip. The kind where you ask "are we there yet".
Profile Image for Courtney Clark.
572 reviews97 followers
February 5, 2022
1/2022: Read again! LOVED AGAIN.
1/2020 reread: Listening to the audiobook this time ~ I love the English accents and interpretation by the narrator.

Mimi Matthews balances charm, adventure, and romance amidst vividly painted exotic locales in this Victorian novel. It matches a spunky and daring heroine to her perfect complement of a hero whose thoughtful nature and intelligence make their story one of friendship and familiarity not often plumbed within such an era– and their romance all the more meaningful for its resilience and selfless nature.

There are so many things I love about this novel that make it one of my favorites in its Victorian niche: the layers of the story, the wonderful world travel, the smart friendship between Jenny and Tom, the important secondary characters, the romantic tension (that. is. always. there.), and the fact that their romance is apart from the course of their lives.

I love that Jenny’s sense of identity never changes. She is a strong character whose journey is not about “finding herself”, but about her dreams changing and how the surprise possibility of love makes her see herself and choices differently without diminishing the value of her initial stance. She and Tom face their romance head-on, which I also appreciated, fully sharing their feelings and doubts in a straightforward manner. Tom, in turn, grows and reconciles his childhood and some of his past choices because he bends to see life through Jenny’s eyes.A Modest Independence and tea

While I’m on the subject of Tom Finchley, let’s just talk about how his intelligence is SO attractive. I mean, his demeanor + the era make the simplicity of being on a first name basis just downright intimate. In various situations, he goes above and beyond to see after Jenny, all while respecting her abilities and wishes.

With A Modest Independence, Mimi Matthews has established herself as a must-read author when it comes to historical romance. Her practiced and timeless style is proves her to be a contemporary of a Victorian voice. I am eager for what’s next in this series!!!

Content note: overall a clean read, especially concerning the romance element, but there are some very mild expletives, mostly uttered by the characters in the company of gentlemen. 🙂

Thank you to Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Profile Image for Carol Cork *Young at Heart Oldie*.
425 reviews203 followers
April 12, 2021
A Modest Independence is the second book in Mimi Matthews’ Parish Orphans of Devon series. Both the hero, Thomas (Tom) Finchley, and the heroine, Jenny Holloway, had important roles in The Matrimonial Advertisement. Tom was Justin’s solicitor and Jenny, Helena’s distant cousin and companion.

I found it refreshing that Tom is not your stereotypical hero. He is neither titled nor is there is anything exceptional about his appearance. However, with hard work and determination, he has risen above his humble beginnings in the orphanage to become a solicitor. Tom has always been in control of every aspect of his life and is totally dedicated to his work and the clients he represents are sometimes less than honourable.

At the age of twenty-eight, Jenny has always been at someone else’s beck and call - first as little more than a drudge for her drunkard of a father and her selfish brothers, and then as Helena’s companion. She has always longed to be independent and fulfil her dreams of travelling and when she receives the money from Helena, I can understand why she is so determined to embrace her newfound freedom.

In The Matrimonial Advertisement, while helping Helena, Tom and Jenny formed a close friendship and it seemed possible that it might have developed into something more. Unfortunately Tom’s actions created friction between them, but the long journey to India allows the strong attraction to flourish and turn to love.

I like how they come to confide in each other and talk openly about their feelings and why they can never be together. Ms. Matthews captures their emotional turmoil so well that, even though I knew that there would be a Happy Ever After, it seemed an impossibility because they both want very different things from life. Jenny is unwilling to give up her independence while Tom has built a life for himself in London and has clients who depend on him.

Tom has his faults but ultimately he proves to be a true hero. He is willing to let Jenny go to pursue her dreams regardless of the heartbreak it causes him. For me such self-sacrifice shows the depth of his love for her. I like how he took a long hard at himself and the choices he had made in his career and resolved only to represent those who truly deserved his help.

Jenny now has her freedom but realises that she is alone and has no one to share her adventures with. She has been afraid to trust anyone because her family has always let her down. Jenny loves Tom and, in her heart, she knows that she can marry him and not lose her independence.

The journey forms a interesting and colourful backdrop to the romance and Ms. Matthews’ research is evident in the fascinating details she incorporates into the story, bringing to life the vibrant sights and sounds of the places they visit. The use of the Bradshaw’s Guide was especially interesting to me having watched Michael Portillo’s BBC TV series, in which he retraces the journeys featured in George Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Railway Guide.

The mystery surrounding Helena’s brother Giles, the social and political commentary and the secondary characters all add to the story.

There is a charming Epilogue which also paves the way for the next book, A Convenient Fiction which is Alex’s story.

Once again, Ms. Matthews delivers a beautifully written, emotionally satisfying and meticulously researched Victorian romance.
Profile Image for Leona.
1,724 reviews18 followers
August 27, 2019
This author has become an auto buy for me. I really enjoy her work, but I have to say this was a disappointing read. I just could not warm up to the story. The relationships felt stale and the plot didn't go anywhere. This had such potential. But, everytime time I thought things were going to take off, the momentum slipped away.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,726 reviews6 followers
May 23, 2019
I can't say I enjoyed this much. I love a slow burn romance as much as the next romance reader, but I found that I had little patience for this heroine. While I understand why she had her particular opinion of men and marriage, it seemed unhealthy and immature to imagine that all men would be like her father or brothers, or even the villain of the previous story, the earl's uncle. Even the heroine herself agreed, that her previous employer had a wonderfully special marriage, allowing for the fact that indeed, some marriages are quite lovely, where the wife isn't a piece of chattel or a mere broodmare, but a a beloved partner.

The fact that the heroine kept telling the hero that he "could stay a little longer" or "didn't have to leave yet", all the while knowing that he wanted her more than she wanted him, made me so angry. She was so selfish, wanting to keep the hero close by, but not that close, lamenting the whole time that they haven't had more private moments together, that he was acting so formal toward her in an effort to protect his own heart. Honestly, I couldn't stand the heroine. I'm sorry if that's harsh, but she was not a likable character.

And the hero of this story wasn't without his faults either. While he was a dear in wanting to make sure the heroine arrived at her destination safely and in one piece, why did he feel the need to subject himself to unrequited feelings? There's a difference between unknowingly putting yourself in emotional harm's way and purposely torturing yourself with the possibility that your love interest doesn't want the same things as you, that she won't, even months of traveling together, give you enough opportunities to persuade her to your way of thinking, that she won't ever think that marriage is indeed a good thing.

The writing was solid, as I've come to expect from Mimi Matthews, and the historical details were a treat, but ultimately this story was about the angst. And unfortunately, in the case of this story, it was more annoyance and frustration, because to me, angst is a delicious and ultimately enjoyable journey to a happy conclusion. Given the amount of "I want you, but I don't want to lose my freedom" wishy-washiness, the happy conclusion needed to come much earlier in the story, and I, as the reader, needed to spend a lot more time reading about the joy after the heroine overcame her fear. One star for the clean content and writing and one star for a pretty amazing hero.
Profile Image for Jayne Fresina.
Author 47 books258 followers
March 10, 2019
After reading and very much enjoying The Matrimonial Advertisement, I had been eagerly awaiting the next book in Mimi Matthews' Parish Orphans of Devon series. Then I was lucky enough to be offered an arc of the book and snatched it up immediately! (Although it is part of a series, I don't believe its necessary to have read the first book.) I loved it. The romance between Jenny and Tom is tender, thoughtful and sweetly endearing. As with all Ms. Matthews' books, I felt transported to another time and place -- and on this bitter cold, snowy weekend I was grateful for it. The details are perfect with the author using a thorough knowledge and understanding of the period to create each scene, so that its almost like looking through a stereoscope viewer to follow the story. There is another reviewer here who has really written an excellent summary and I would hesitate to follow it with my own, so I just wanted to give my penny's worth here in support of a well-written, truly enjoyable piece of work -- an original storyline with lovely, three-dimensional characters and some rare, exotic settings. The romance feels real because it's not "in your face", which makes it one of my firm favourites. It grows slowly, steadily and cleverly, with little hints for the reader to follow and smile at. There are actual, believable, period-appropriate conflicts in this story -- one being Jenny's desire for autonomy and that "modest independence" of the title. Will she have to choose between that yearning and her love for hero Thomas, who seems to be all business but really wouldn't mind having more than that in his life? Their journey is not only physical, but one of personal growth too and it leaves the reader feeling fulfilled, warm and ready for the next parish orphan's story!
I do not often read and review books these days, but when I find an author who can move my hard heart (a rare occurrence indeed) with her writing, and intrigue me so that I wonder what she will write next, I feel compelled to add my cheers and let them know that I want more.

Profile Image for Joanna Loves Reading.
563 reviews214 followers
May 30, 2019
This was my second book by Mimi Matthews, and for me, this one really worked. When I saw this book traveled outside England, I was intrigued and wanted to give it a try. Matthews is a strong writer and her historical research is evident in the pages. It was fun journeying halfway across the world to India, taking an overland route, through the pages of this novel. I enjoyed the amount of details included as it balanced with story progression. The journey took them through France, Italy, Egypt and India.

When I reviewed the first book in this series, I noted that I would be interested in trying more if the story interested me, and this one proved that. I also thought the romance in this one stronger in this one, though it could get a bit circular. The lead characters, Jenny and Tom, were together most of the trip, and their romantic connection grew based shared experiences and time to learn and understand each other. They had months in each other’s company. Note: while there’s kissing, these novels do not go beyond the bedroom door.

Overall, I enjoyed this story and would recommend to readers that like different historical settings.

*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jeannine.
514 reviews34 followers
April 17, 2023
Mimi Matthews can do no wrong in my book. In A Modest Independence, we follow the lady’s maid from the previous book, Jenny, newly independent as a result of a gift from her former employer, Lady Helena, and the solicitor who facilitated the first book’s marriage, Tom Finchley. The two go on an epic adventure to India (via trains, ships, and carts) to find Lady Helena’s brother, presumed killed during a battle.

Jenny and Tom grew close during the previous book, but never formally came together. When she decides to go to India, her good-bye scene with Tom is heart-wrenching…until he decides to go with her. What follows is a hard journey, but one where the two fall in love.

All the while, they are served by Ahmed and Mira, who we get to know even better in The Siren of Sussex.

This book is long, as the journey is epic and takes us through France, Egypt, and India. It’s a beautiful story and I loved every minute of it.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,434 reviews50 followers
April 18, 2020
So I don't know why I'm not relating to this story as I really liked the rest of the series. I admit I haven't been able to finish this title in my normal timely manner. I don't like Jenny and maybe that's the reason why.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,114 reviews72 followers
October 24, 2019
This was a wonderful story and I loved it! *SIGH* I started reading this book this week because book 3 was just released and I can’t bare the fact that I wont have something from this author to look forward to. If you’ve never read a book by Mimi Matthews then you must give her a try. You won’t be sorry. She is my favorite romance author hands down.
This one made me super nervous because I didn’t know how it was going to work out. The writing was excellent.
What I loved:
• The Romance
• The Chemistry
• India
I can’t wait to read book 3! Yay!

Some of my favorite quotes ♥️

“...wave of tenderness assailed him. “You have nothing to worry about.” “I do. I look dreadful, you said. And now you’ll always remember—” “Hush. I only said that because I was trying to rile you. To get your spirits up. The truth is…” He cleared his throat. “The truth is, you’re so beautiful I’m finding it rather difficult to look at you.”

“I’d kiss you if I wasn’t in such a dreadful state.” “You’re beautiful,” Tom said gruffly. He took his handkerchief from her hands and used it to dry her face. “You’re always beautiful.” “Don’t dare be kind to me. I’ll never stop weeping.” “I can be nothing but kind to you. You’re my dearest girl. Don’t you know that?”

I bought this book and all opinions are my own! Happy Reading :)
Profile Image for Gretchen.
259 reviews36 followers
July 19, 2020
This book is so deliciously splendid & totally different from any other historical romance I’ve read before- for one, the romance hit the ground running from the beginning of the book, & for two, I’ve never read a romance story with an exotic setting like this one. I’ve definitely never read a Victorian romance with adventure like this book has.

Jenny is a very endearing character who values independence over all else. While this is vital to her character & is understandable considering her past, it drove me nuts since it’s the opposite of me. 😆 Tom is a GREAT intellectual hero- he is so understanding& patient with her & shows his love through acts of service throughout the book. I love a man that takes care of his woman! 😍 The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Giles was interesting & the book balanced the adventure/intrigue with romance very well. (There is plenty of sweet romance & great kissing scenes😘) And like always, Mimi Matthews is a master at dialogue.

I adore this series & feel like I need to slow down reading them but I just can’t. I’m gonna have such a hard book hangover when I’m done with this series.
Profile Image for Lisazj1.
2,072 reviews147 followers
August 5, 2020
The adventure was grand, the romance was sweet *if maddening* and the ending was wonderful enough to almost make me forget my irritation. 😏

And the cherry on top of this particular ice cream sundae was that all of it was delivered in the delicious, meltingly sexy voice of Alex Wyndham! 🥰
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,212 reviews207 followers
October 13, 2019
Loved this story! Mimi is a wonderful writer. The slow building romance, with such great dialogue and interaction between the characters! Lots of authors fill pages with settings and places and history and miss building a good romance and characters. This author does a great job of giving me the kind of romance I want to read. This is a proper romance and it's keep chaste but some awesome stolen kisses are involved:) I have enjoyed this series and have already bought the next book.
Profile Image for kris.
937 reviews186 followers
January 17, 2023
Jenny Holloway has got MONEY TO SPEND, BABY. So she announces a plan to go to India and her Solicitor, Tom Finchley, decides to tag along. He claims it's for protection (but it's obviously because of the boners). They "bond" over the course of their trip and end up in love, I guess.

1. Here's the thing: Jenny and Tom are pretty much 90% of the way there before the book even starts. Both featured in The Matrimonial Advertisement and their flirting and palling around is referenced here, too. And while Tom's "betrayal" is set up to be a major barrier to the restarting of their relationship, that hurdle is cleared at about the 30% mark.

And the rest of the book is just them having the same discussion over and over and over again. A dramatic reenactment, if you'll allow me:
Jenny: Oh Tom, I like you a lot!
Tom: Oh Jenny, me too, but slightly less clearly because I'm a man and can't be honest about my emotions, even to myself!
Jenny: How much I have enjoyed this time together!
Tom: Ditto, babe!
Jenny: But you know I do not want to marry!
Tom: Sure!
Jenny: So saying goodbye is going to be, like, way tough!
Tom: Totally!
Jenny: Hold me!
Tom: (explodes in lust, metaphorically, because this is a clean romance)
2. So on top of the frustration of #1, there's the fact that I didn't really care about Tom or Jenny? Like: they were fine characters, but we spent so much time in their melodramatic conversations that they both began to feel like absolute wet blankets and I didn't care if they ever got their boners off the ground. Like: live a little! Fuck.

3. ALSO. For someone who ALLEGEDLY wants to travel the world INDEPENDENTLY, Jenny doesn't ask any questions or involve herself in any of the particulars of Tom's arrangements for getting them from A to B. And I know it turns out not to matter because she's able to just... do it when the plot calls for it, but it bothered me SO MUCH. Coordinating travel is kind of a pain! And doing it as a woman in the mid-19th century was probably a little bit more of a pain! And the text just....didn't bother.

4. The actual "seeing the world" bits were really disappointing. Between the melodramatic boner conversations, the search for Giles, and the details of travel there isn't actually any space for what the world is like elsewhere. (Beyond the obvious: "it's hot in parts of India!" catchall.) I never understood why Jenny wanted to travel or what she was seeking beyond being able to dogear a bunch of places in her travel book.

5. Tom's eventual proposal was terrible, too, because it seems obvious that he could have just....offered the occasional adventure to help alleviate her wanderlust? There's a compromise here that seems not terrible? And no one mentioned it? You're all the worst.

6. Alex sounds like a dick hero.
Profile Image for Sarah Monzon.
Author 22 books422 followers
April 2, 2019
What?!? A romance book where the characters actually talk about their feelings? *gasp* Seriously though, it was really refreshing. There was no high drama internal dialogue where the characters wondered what the other one was thinking or feeling because they straight up told each other, hey, I like you and I want to be with you. Did that mean there wasn't any romantic tension? No. Because while they both had feelings for each other, they both also had some personal things they needed to work through before they could let themselves see a future together that was more than temporary.
I really enjoyed the variety of settings and it was fun to travel along with the characters from England to India. I think the author did a great job at balancing the perceptions of the time period as well. Although *slightly* long winded, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Profile Image for vicky..
383 reviews154 followers
March 13, 2019
Matthews has done it again. She managed to transport me to victorian England and India and make me care for character that were secondary in the previous one.

Jenny wants to be independant and live her own life without being controlled by any man. At a time when marriage was basically a prison for women, her desire for freedom strucks as realistic.
Tom, unlike the hero of the previous book, is more quiet and less broody. He wants love and tenderness.

These two fall for each other while travelling to India, but they want different things in life. Will they stay together at the end?

Looking forward to the next Matthew's book.

arc provided by netgalley.
Profile Image for HR-ML.
1,089 reviews40 followers
August 27, 2020
Victorian romance. DNF @39%.

Sorry to say this was a lackluster couple. The heroine
Jenny admitted her preoccupation w/ independence.
Hero Tom had an 'edge' to him based on his mentor's
training (which appealed less to Tom over time). The
travel aspect was tedious, not exciting. I liked this
couple much better in a supporting role in book #3 of
this series.
740 reviews55 followers
April 27, 2019
Two people wanting to be in control of their own lives embark on an adventure that will have them learning how to let go. One of the hardest things to do in life.

"One grows tired of waiting for knights in shining armor. Sometimes nothing will do but to rescue oneself." (quote from the book)

"A Modest Independence" is book 2 in the Parish Orphans of Devon series. We learn more about Miss Jenny Holloway, cousin and former companion to Lady Helena from "A Matrimonial Advertisement" as well as Tom Finchley, solicitor, and close friend of Mr. Thornhill. We learn what makes them tick and what has shaped them. On our journey with these two strong willed individuals, we not only experience the sights, smells, sounds and hardships of traveling during the Victorian period, but the emotional one as well, as the push and pull of attraction builds between them. And what a battle it is!

"If he wanted her in his life, he couldn't win her with plotting and trickery. He would have to win her on his own merits. Not as a solicitor, but as a man. The idea terrified him." (quote from the book)

This is another well written, well researched novel that tugs at our emotions and brings to life travel during the Victorian period. There were times I wanted to shake Jenny but a deep-seeded fear is hard to overcome. As for Tom, he is the quiet unassuming hero that stirs the soul and steps out of his own comfort zone for the woman he loves.
Profile Image for Frankie.
830 reviews60 followers
March 29, 2019
Well, what can I say? This is such a beautiful story, which is full of so much hope and it leaves the reader with a real sense of that there is love in the world for everyone no matter what your station in life. It is a book that I felt right down inside, I spoke to me. It is a truly beautiful book!

What I love about this, is that Jenny and Tom are very normal people, they aren’t aristocrats whose only problems in life is whether their morning kippers are hot or cold – no these two are brilliantly down to earth. Anyone who knows me will know how much I love character’s who have pulled themselves up from the bottom and trying to find their own way in life and this is Jenny and Tom. They are two people who have both experienced hardships in one way or another and yes because of that it has made them more jaded, hard and a little cynical but once you get to know them you will understand.

Jenny Holloway is a former lady’s companion has been given what was called then a ‘modest independence’ she is all set to leave England to try to find out what really happened to her old friend the Earl of Castleton, so she has her sights on making her way all the to India to find the truth. But to do that she needs her money which needs to be released by her solicitor Tom Finchley. She is determined that after a live of being in servitude that now is the chance for her to be free to follow her heart, and I really love her for that. She is a quiet woman who has got large opinions and is that which Tom finds utterly fascinating, he sees that she is very much like him and he sees in her a friend first which I found so lovely. He refuses to let her go off on her own so he does the only compulsive thing he has ever done in his life and goes with her.

So Tom, Jenny and two servants set off on a life changing adventure from England to India and it is this part of the story that is so damn good! The way Ms Matthews has written their journey is an assault on the senses, you literally see, smell, and experience everything that Tom and Jenny do. The research that has gone into every detail and element of this journey is a masterpiece of historical research and writing, I was spellbound by every sight that our couple see.

I love Tom and Jenny, they are both brilliant created by the very talented Ms Matthews and they also have quite a unique and very different relationship to what we are used to in Historical Romance which I found so refreshing, it was lovely watching two people get to know each other in a very natural way.

A Modest Independence is the second book in The Parish Orphans of Devon series, and the beauty of this book is that you really don’t need to read the previous to enjoy the series, as everything you need to know about The Parish Orphans of Devon is here, but do read A Matrimonial Advertisement. I cannot recommend either of these books enough!

Overall a gorgeous, heart-warming and brilliantly clever romance which will keep you tuning the pages and I also got a sense that there could be more in the series especially with the ending. There is just a whisper of maybe more to come, I so hope so! My only negative comment was the first few pages, I felt that they were a little slow for the story, but it was still captivating and I am in utter awe of the hard work that has gone into this book, I truly felt that Ms Matthews has put her heart and soul into this, there is little piece of Mimi Matthews in this book that you feel as you read.

In one word, this is beautiful.
Profile Image for Tracy DeNeal.
369 reviews19 followers
March 21, 2019
This book! This story! I was swept away by Mimi Matthews’ elegant and descriptive prose. I’ve spent the last few days living and breathing in the Victorian era.

I felt the discomfort and indignities of foreign travel, the discomfort of Western clothing in an arid southeastern climate, the microagressions perpetrated upon indigenous peoples in their own homeland by thoughtless and ignorant interlopers and the burgeoning stirrings of an unexpected romance between two prickly individuals who had lived a lifetime with no expectations in that regard.

Matthews brings history to life for me. Her research is outstanding. I’ve learned so much about events that were never covered in World History classes from my school days. When reading her novels, I find myself searching other sources to get additional flavor on events that she touches upon. My love of history is sparked by her wonderful stories.

Brava! Tom Finchley and Jenny Holloway were such masterfully created protagonists. A former lady’s companion with an independent and managing personality coupled with an orphan who has risen from humble means to become an influential solicitor—not your usual romance protagonists. Let me tell you, I adored this pairing. I hung onto every syllable of every exchange between the two of them. Their conversational volleys and the unspoken chemistry between the two of them elevated this slow burning romance to the level of a tour de force of the genre.

I was privileged to be gifted a copy of this book from the author, but that won’t stop me from purchasing a copy upon release.

My only regret is that I discovered this author too early in her writing career. There is no back catalog for me to delve into. I’ve read all of her fiction works as they’ve been published and now I have to wait with bated breath for the next installment.

I recommend this series to fellow historical romance lovers. If you want intelligent romance between mature adults who actually *gasp* talk to each other, you will love this series. I know that I do!
Profile Image for ♥Sharon♥.
961 reviews143 followers
June 13, 2019

I wish I had more time to write a proper review because this book deserves it. But real life won’t cut me a break. 😟

I so enjoyed this adventure with Tom and Jenny. There was never a dull moment for sure. And the ending was perfect.

Looking forward to reading on with this series.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,231 reviews169 followers
June 4, 2019
I’ve come to equate Mimi Matthews’s historical romances with quality, and here again the author offers us a compelling and interesting story, this time in the shape of a journey to India. The amount of details truly paint a vivid and sensory image of what this type of trip would have involved. Fascinating, really. Add to this relatable leads, each determined not to jeopardise their own sense of self, and you have a winner.
Profile Image for Fiction Aficionado.
658 reviews83 followers
April 22, 2019
"In order to have Tom, she’d have to give up her freedom. The very independence she’d dreamed of for so many years. It was a price she wasn’t willing to pay. Not for him. Not for anyone. But she was tempted. So very, dreadfully tempted.”

This story is everything! *cue all the happy sighs* My heart feels exquisitely satisfied after reading this book, and now I face the somewhat daunting task of trying to put into words all the reasons why.

First the easy part—the fact that this story takes the reader on a Victorian era journey from England to India, evoking all the sights, sounds, and experiences along the way. I’m not sure it’s a journey I would have liked to make in real life, but I loved reading about it! The circumstances of such a trip also provided the ideal backdrop for Tom and Jenny’s story, affording them freedoms that wouldn’t have been enjoyed in their everyday lives in England but also enhancing the tension inherent in their growing attachment to one another.

And that attachment. . . . How can I possibly begin to express it? The most satisfying romance involves so much more than physical attraction. It is care and tenderness; it’s a meeting of minds and souls; it’s mutual respect; in short, it’s companionship on the deepest level possible, and I’m not sure I have ever come across a story that has portrayed that more captivatingly than this one. From the smallest gestures of thoughtfulness or tenderness right through to the soul-puddling kisses, this story had EVERYTHING I love most about romance.

Most refreshingly of all, Tom and Jenny are honest and open with one another from the beginning. About their fondness for one another’s company, about their deepening regard, but also about the impossibility, as they see it, of a marriage between them—she, because she is finally independent, longing to travel and experience adventure, and he because his life is bound up in his employment as a solicitor in London. Attraction they have in spades, but if their lives are not compatible, attraction would eventually turn to resentment, and one of the sweetest things about this story is the way in which Tom—a man whose very livelihood has been made in the practice of using knowledge and circumstances in order to bend people to his clients’ wills—resolutely refuses to wield such power over Jenny.

I could go on. And on, and on, and on. I think I highlighted almost half of this book on my kindle. I will most assuredly be drinking this one in again and again, and I can’t wait for the next in this series.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for Christina.
Author 17 books312 followers
April 23, 2019
“A Modest Independence” is the second book in the Parish Orphans of Devon series and a proof of why Mimi Matthews is an emerging talent in historical fiction that you don’t want to miss. Our heroine is Jenny Holloway, a 28-year-old spinster who’s been gifted her own money from her cousin Lady Helena. Jenny decides to use her new modest independence to travel to India and see if she can find her missing, handsome cousin, the earl of Castledon. Our unlikely hero is Thomas Finchley, solicitor, who has taken his responsibility of managing her money to another level and travels with her from England. From the very first pages, set in intriguing and exotic lands far from Victorian England, the delicious tension and yearning almost drip off the pages. This is a story not only about falling in love; it’s about coming into your own and discovering what you thought was important really isn’t if you can’t be with the one who completes you.
Profile Image for Luli.
662 reviews73 followers
April 22, 2019
You can find this review in English below.

Esta autora se ha convertido en una de mis favoritas. La calidad de su prosa está muy por encima de la media. Sabe de lo que escribe y lo hace de una manera especial, y eso es algo de agradecer, ahora que cualquiera dice escribir una novela y nos castiga con un tormento.

En el caso entre manos, era difícil mejorar su antecesora, la magnífica y brillante The Matrimonial Advertisement, mi favorita por ahora, pero aún así, la historia tiene su brillo propio. Ha sido algo más lenta, con poco drama y con una trama original que nunca antes había leído: dos personajes honestos hasta el límite, que no se cansan de reconocer sus sentimientos y que creen (¡qué ilusos, los pobres!) que sus anhelos personales no los van a dejar estar juntos. Así que, la historia gira en torno a este tema, y de camino, Ms. Matthews nos deja perlas históricas acerca de la vida cotidiana en la otra parte del mundo. Y acerca de un viaje asombroso y terriblemente difícil para llegar a ella. Este es otro de los fuertes de la autora, hace de la precisión histórica su objetivo principal, aportando información muy relevante e interesante de cómo eran las cosas y cómo se hacían en la época.

Y también es una de las pocas veces en las que merece la pena leer las notas históricas al final del libro. Son muy interesantes y siempre aportan un plus a la historia.

Así pues, aunque no ha sido una historia que me haya dejado sin aliento merece la pena leerla. Creo que es de lo mejorcito en HR ahí fuera.

Y ahora a esperar la historia de Neville. Me tiene intrigadísima saber qué hará Ms. Matthews con este personaje.

e-ARC kindly provided by Perfectly Proper Press via Netgalley.

This author has become one of my favorites. The quality of her prose is well above average. She knows how to write and she has a special way with words, and that is something to be thankful for, specially these days in which anyone thinks can write a novel and put us, unsuspected readers, through a torment.

In the case between hands, it was difficult to improve its predecessor, the magnificent and brilliant The Matrimonial Advertisement , my favorite for now, but still, the story has its own brightness.
The story has been somewhat slower, low on angst and with an original basis that I had never read before: two main characters honest to a fault, who never get tired of recognizing and expressing their feelings to each other and who believe (the poor things!) that their individual longings are going to keep them apart.
So, the story revolves around this theme, and simultaneously, Ms. Matthews shows us historical gems about everyday life in the other part of the world. And about an amazing and terribly difficult journey to get to it. This is another of the author's strengths, she makes historical accuracy her priority, providing very relevant and interesting information about how things were and how they were done at the time.

And it is also one of the few times in which it is worth reading the historical notes at the end of the book. They are so interesting, an insightful bonus.

So, although it has not been a story that has left me breathless it is worth reading. I think it's among the best in HR we can find out there.

And now to wait for Neville's story. I am intrigued to know what Ms. Matthews will do with this character.
Profile Image for Rachna.
328 reviews71 followers
June 23, 2022
I REALLY, REALLY liked this. It's basically a road trip romance, except it's in a historical setting and takes place across thousands of miles and cities. I adored getting to travel with these characters on ships, trains, and gharrys. Lively and fascinating!

I would've enjoyed this book on that basis alone but I did also really love both Jenny and Tom, who are quiet and strong-willed in their own ways, and almost immediately giddy and brainless about each other in ways I found really charming. All their conversations as they fell in love... swoony. I found the central obstacle to their getting together really compelling and believable, which is why my only real hangup is Jenny's choice at the end - how happy with that would she be? - but I found myself reasonably convinced by the end. So.

Finally, three notes on this book wrt to other books:
1. This is the second book I've read this year that has a chunk of it take place in colonial India, and I found this a great deal better written and less distracting than Murder in Old Bombay. I really dug Matthews' no-nonsense approach - you get exactly the right snapshot of tensions, culture, history without being bogged down by a need to prove knowledge/research.
2. I meant to read Book 1 of this series first but the only ebook in our library was on loan. No complaints that I started with this!
3. Gasped in surprise two chapters in when Ahmad, the hero of the only other Matthews book I've read, appeared!!!! My beautiful dressmaker.
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