AAR has loved much of Ms. Matthews work and we thought our readers would enjoy learning more about her and her writing! (Thanks to Lisa for coming up with most of these questions!)
AAR: How do you create your books? And what is your subsequent research process like?
Mimi: My books usually begin with an idea for a single, disconnected scene. It gives me a sense of the main characters and the general tenor of their romance. I build the rest of my story around that scene.
As for my research, I try to restrict it to primary sources or to scholarly articles by people who specialize in Victorian history. I like to be certain I’m getting the actual facts and not just some regurgitated misconception about the era that’s been passed around on the internet.
My goal is to be as period accurate as possible, without dragging things down with heavy-handed historical detail. Above all, I want my novels to be enjoyable.
AAR: What made you decide to settle The Belles of London series on Rotten Row and horsemanship?
Mimi: I’ve had Andalusian horses for decades and have been riding and competing since I was a little girl. The idea of writing a story about a Victorian era equestrienne and her magnificent Andalusian stallion really appealed to me. I also love the history of the Pretty Horsebreakers—famous Victorian courtesans known as much for their horsemanship as for their other charms. There was so much about the setting and the characters that captured my imagination!
AAR: Can you share any insights into the hero and heroine of The Belle of Belgrave Square?
Mimi: Julia Wychwood is a baronet’s daughter living with her hypochondriacal parents in Mayfair. She suffers from social anxiety, which has made her past few London seasons a disaster. She prefers to be snuggled up in bed reading a good novel. Either that, or outdoors riding her horse. She’s much more confident in the saddle!
Captain Jasper Blunt is a battle-scarred ex-army captain with a sinister reputation. Once hailed as the “Hero of the Crimea,” he’s now known as much for his rumored cruelty to his men (and for his scandalous living situation) as for his heroic deeds. He’s come to London to find a wealthy bride. But Jasper has a few deep, dark secrets. He can’t afford to let anyone get too close.
AAR: Have you ever considered penning a warm-level romance? If not, why not?
Mimi: I’ve penned several! They’re some of my earliest unpublished manuscripts. However, at this stage of my writing career, the specific kind of tension in a closed-door romance really suits the stories I’m telling. I love the sensuality of the restrained slow burn. The way every brush of a skirt against a trouser leg and every touch of an ungloved hand can be made to bristle with erotic tension.
That doesn’t mean I won’t return to the more explicit variety of hotter romances at some point in future. I just have to be really intentional about it so people are clear on what they’re getting. A lot of readers associate me with closed-door romance. Not all of them would appreciate me opening that door unexpectedly.
AAR: Do you have a favorite heroine? A favorite hero?
Mimi: In my own work, it’s really hard to choose. I love Ahmad Malik from The Siren of Sussex because he’s strong, sensitive, outrageously talented, and a staunch advocate for women. He’s also half white/half Indian, like me, and often feels disconnected from either culture—something I relate to deeply. And I love Evelyn Maltravers from the same book. She doesn’t let society’s opinions dictate her happiness or influence what she knows is right.
There are so many others I love, including Alex Archer and Laura Hayes from A Convenient Fiction and Maggie Honeywell and Viscount St. Clare in Gentleman Jim. And of course, Captain Blunt and Julia Wychwood from The Belle of Belgrave Square. Those two truly deserved their happily ever after!
AAR: What can we look forward to next?
Mimi: I’ve just signed on with Berkley/Penguin Random House to write three more books that I’m really excited about! The first is Book 4 in my Belles of London series—The Muse of Maiden Lane. This is silver-haired Stella Hobhouse’s story and her hero is Teddy Hayes, a popular supporting character from my novel A Convenient Fiction. It will be out in fall of 2024.
After that, I’m starting a new Victorian series for Berkley. It’s called the Crinoline Academy and is best described as Great Expectations meets The Umbrella Academy, with a dash of Victorian-era Charlie’s Angels. The first book will be out in early 2025. I can’t wait for everyone to read it!
AAR: Thank you for talking with us!