Title: The Spinster’s Secret
Author: Emily Larkin
Genre: Historical Romance, fiction
What it’s about: Mathilda Chapple has a secret. She is an orphan girl taken in by her uncle, Arthur Strickland, in Creed Hall. By day, she wears grey dresses, and appears to be every bit the proper young lady. Determined to gain financial independence from her uncle and not to marry, by night, Mathilda writes confessions of a courtesan. Her inspiration is a journal left by a countess, hidden in a secret cupboard of Mathilda’s (who goes by Mattie) room. Mattie’s secret is safe, until Edward Kane appears in Creed Hall. Edward, a veteran of the battle of Waterloo, where he witnessed the death of his best friend and Mathilda’s cousin, Toby Strickland, has his own demons to face.
When Cherie’s waterlogged confession falls out on Arthur Strickland’s desk, after the bridge is washed away under the postman, Edward agrees to find the writer behind the confessions. As a result, he prolongs his stay at Creed Hill, a place he finds distasteful and which is every bit as bad as Toby had described–from the quiet dinners to help with digestion, to the boiled food, and the hour-long sermons on women virtue read by none other than Mattie herself.
As Mattie and Edward spend time together, they become close friends and Mattie helps Edward overcome his guilt, while Edward brings Mattie gingerbread to overcome the boring boiled food in the house. While Edward continues his search for Cherie, Mattie is asked by her publisher to provide one more chapter in order to publish Cherie’s memoir–the one in which Cherie loses her virginity for the first time to her husband. Mattie attempts to write the last chapter, but continues to be stumped. In the meantime, Edward and she continue to get closer, and Edward starts to develop feelings for her.
After Mattie’s uncle sets her up with a suitor, who Mattie turns down in her desire to be financially independent, Edward asks her if he can help her in any way, because he has heard Arthur berating Mattie and condemning her to be a spinster for the rest of her life. After a momentary pause, and an explanation that she has always wanted to be alone, Mattie asks him for something unexpected–a union in her bed–with the hope that it will help her write her scene. Edward cannot deny her, even though he knows that he shouldn’t do it.
After their gentle time in bed, Mattie finishes writing the necessary scene, and sends off the remaining chapter. The next day, Edward proposes to her out of honor; however, Mattie turns him down because she knew that he wasn’t doing it out of love. A short while later, they have another tryst in bed, and Edward continues to read Cherie’s confessions, but imagining that it is Mattie the whole time.
As time goes on, and he is no closer to finding the writer of Cherie’s confessions, he gets the idea that he should go to her publisher in London. During his trip, he realizes that he has fallen in love with Mattie, and does genuinely want to marry her. During his visit to the publishing house, the publisher does not give him a name; however, the first chapter of the book has been completed, and he allows Edward a read. As Edward reads, the connection between the girl that he loves and the writer of Cherie is crystal clear, as Mattie used her union with Edward as the basis for the chapter.
When Edward returns to Creed Hall, Mattie knows that he has discovered her secret, and decides that she will tell the truth out in the open for the whole family, instead of having her uncle finding out from Edward in the secret of his office. Arthur kicks Mattie out immediately; however, Edward intervenes on her behalf and she is able to stay the night. Mattie uses that time to write letters to Edward, Arthur, and her friend Cecy, explaining the truth. She leaves the letters for each in a place that they would be able to find it, as she leaves Creed Hall for good and disappears.
Edward reads his letter from Mattie, and the realization dawns on him that Mattie does love him, with his scars, missing fingers, and lame leg. He rides out in search of her, but cannot find her.
Three months later, Mattie, now under an assumed name, is told by one of the housekeepers that there is a guest in the salon. She hopes that it is her first boarder in the boarding house that she has purchased with the money that she made from Cherie’s confessions. To her surprise, it’s Edward, who received the address from Cecy. He’s anguished that it took so long to find her, and angrily asks her how she could leave after leaving such a letter for him, professing her love for him. He pulls out a copy of Cherie’s memoir and points out that Mattie changed the first chapter to differ vastly from their beginnings. Ultimately, Edward proposes to Mattie, and she accepts, looking forward to a brand new life with him.
My Verdict: This book was a free purchase from Amazon, and honestly, I really enjoyed it. The story sucked me in and held me captive. I could easily commiserate with Mattie, and felt sorry for her. I rooted for her and Edward, from the start and really hoped that the secret Mattie had, wouldn’t ruin their relationship because love trumps all.
The book was so well written that I could feel the emotions that all of the characters were going through, and I enjoyed their internal dialogues as well as the wittiness of some of the conversations. There was a point of the book that reminded me of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (interestingly enough, they mention Sense and Sensibility in the book, as a forbidden novel in Creed Halls). Mattie’s and Edward’s relationship reminded me more of Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy’s tumultuous relationship in some ways, but clearly Mattie’s and Edward’s was more physical than proper.
I definitely would recommend this book if you enjoy romance stories on your trips.