Interview: Mimi Matthews discusses new book, spiritualism, and complicated relationships

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews / Credit: Vickie Hahn 2021

Fans of Mimi Matthews have been anxiously waiting for the next book in the Belles of London series and it's finally here! The Lily of Ludgate Hill follows Lady Anne who we have seen a little in the past few books, and the man she despises, Felix "Hart Hartford.

How can these two with so much history find love? Well, first, they must get along long enough for Anne to save her friend Julia from what she expects is a dire situation. But as we know from book 2, Julia couldn't be further from danger. But what Anne learns along her journey with her mother and Felix is that her heart may be quite in danger of belonging to Felix. And she can't have that.

I was lucky enough to, once again, interview the author of The Belles of London series, Mimi Matthews. In our interview, she discusses The Lily of Ludgate Hill, the importance of fashion in the story, and the role of spiritualism in Anne's life.

Mimi Matthews discusses The Lily of Ludgate Hill, spiritualism, and her next book

Culturess: What first sparked this couple and this story?

Mimi Matthews: Lady Anne and Felix “Hart” Hartford first appeared as supporting characters in The Siren of Sussex (Belles of London, Book 1). It was clear they had a complicated history. I was so excited to delve into it and figure out what went wrong between them—and to see if it could still go right!

Culturess: When the book begins, Anne has already decided to go to Felix for help. What do you think ultimately makes Anne turn to Felix?

Mimi Matthews: Anne believes her best friend, Julia, has been abducted by a villainous ex-army captain and spirited away to his remote Yorkshire estate, Goldfinch Hall. Anne desperately wants to travel to Yorkshire to rescue her, but Anne’s mother won’t hear of it. Anne knows that Hart is the anonymous author behind a series of columns in the Spiritualist Herald. She thinks that if he writes something about Goldfinch Hall being haunted, she can use it to persuade her spiritualist mother to travel there.

Culturess: What was the hardest part of writing Anne and Felix?

Mimi Matthews: It’s always difficult to rehabilitate a relationship between two people who have hurt each other deeply. To do this, it was important to show how much Hart and Anne had changed and grown since their falling out seven years before, while still preserving the qualities each had fallen in love with.

Culturess: Clothes and a specific red dress are important aspects of Anne's story. What do you think that red dress represents to Anne's development?

Mimi Matthews: The red dress represents the same thing in the story that Ludgate Hill represents: life. Anne is emerging from her mourning clothes, and from the confined society of fashionable Mayfair, into a vibrant, colorful world full of energy, industry, and endless possibility.

Culturess: Anne's mother is very much into spiritualism and drags Anne into it. We've seen some of that in the last two books. What about that part of this era drew you to include it in this series?

Mimi Matthews: The spiritualism aspect of the Belles of London series stems from two things: 1) The very real, and very fascinating, history of spiritualism in Victorian London, particularly in the aftermath of the 1861 death of Prince Albert; and 2) A former yoga instructor of mine who remarked that she was co-writing a book with her “familiar spirit.” The latter stuck in my head for years and served to partially inspire Lady Arundell’s own familiar spirit, Dmitri.

Culturess We already know that Teddy from A Convenient Fiction will be the love interest in The Muse of Maiden Lane for Stella. Is there anything you can tell us about what we can expect from this next book?

Mimi Matthews: I’m so excited to bring Teddy back! He is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written, and so perfectly suited for solemn, silver-haired Stella Hobhouse. Readers can expect lots of sweetness, lots of Victorian-era art, and plenty of appearances from favorite characters from past books, including Julia and Jasper Blunt, Evie and Ahmad Malik, and Anne and Felix Hartford. The Parish Orphans of Devon series’ characters are there, too. A few scenes are even at Greyfriar’s Abbey, the Thornhills’ cliffside estate!

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