Reviewed by Sarah Scheele for Readers' Favorite
A Holiday by Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews is a short historical romance set in England during the 1860s. For Sophie Appersett, the daughter of an established, but almost bankrupt baronet, life isn’t easy in this time of tremendous change. After her father spends her dowry on an expensive installation of gas works in their lovely country estate, Appersett House, her family plans to marry off responsible, selfless Sophie to some rich, but despised tradesman like Ned Sharpe. Her spoiled sister, Emily, still has a dowry and hopes to compete socially, but Sophie must think of the family first. She doesn’t know the serious, distant Mr. Sharpe at all and is afraid they can’t love each other. But when she invites him to a Christmas party at Appersett House, the days hold plenty of surprises for everyone—and not least for Sophie herself.
A Holiday by Gaslight is a real delight. Completely satisfying as a graceful love story, it also doubles as a family drama and an authentic presentation of the 1860s that reads with the simplicity and visual gusto of a period movie. Even though the short length of the book will leave avid period fans wanting much more, Mimi Matthews puts a lot of story line into it. It’s a sweet tale filled with believable characters and fleshed out far beyond the two central leads—likable as they are. Stern, proud Ned Sharpe did indeed remind me of Mr. Thornton from North and South, but he’s a wholly distinct character as well, and Sophie was attractive and genuine as his opposite. Sophie’s hysterical father, in denial about how his actions impact his family; her cunning, dignified mother and immature sister; the guests at the Christmas ball; the settings of London and the countryside—everything was developed really well and the dialogue deserves praise all on its own. Fun to read and fun to read again, this book is one of my favorites now.