Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra (2017)
(YA) Fiction | Historical | Mystery | Romance
“Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people’s voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her “Mad Miss Mimic” behind her back… and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo…but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations – but to do so, she must first find her voice.”
Expected Publication Date: January 3, 2017 (Originally published in 2015, Canada)
pooled ink Review:
I fell in love with this book the moment I read its description. From the first pages I knew it would not disappoint me and indeed it did not! Henstra’s novel had all the romance of a Jane Austen story but with an exciting dash of scandal and adrenaline. I love so many things about this book, where to begin?
The protagonist of this story is Leonora, but many call her Mad Miss Mimic behind her back. She is such a unique voice to be found in the heart of such a novel! She is lovely and an heiress to quite a healthy fortune but she suffers from stuttering as well as an unusual gift to mimic other people’s voices. In this time period it was of the utmost importance for a girl to get married but her stuttering and sudden outbursts of uncanny reenactments of overheard conversations scares all the suitors away. Poor Mad Miss Mimic. However, through this story we watch as she is swept off her feet by a suitor, dropped into the midst of murder and mayhem, then climbs her own way slowly out of the illusions she once believed and for once takes control over her own life.
While the story remains powerfully accurate to how women behaved and were treated in the 19th Century, we get the pleasure of watching how overlooked Leo learns to stand up straight and make up her own mind after all. My only complaint is that I liked Tom straightaway but it took her quite a while to agree with me (although yes I suppose her tumultuous opinions of Tom are quite understandable and yet I still fell for Tom the moment he entered the page).
Not only does this book have a wonderful heroine, but the story itself is utterly captivating and teeming with excitement. Bombs, opium, murder, politics, sensationalism, and blackmail pierce through Leo’s once-straightforward world of suitors and disappointment. Romance flows from the pages as marriage dominates a woman’s purpose at this time, but the plot goes far above and beyond such things! Henstra takes her lovely young heroine and brings her places where she would not normally go.
I call it a “mystery” but really we find out who the horrible people are far before the final page. Even so the intrigue and excitement continue as we look every which way desperately searching for a way to catch them with undeniable evidence. It is also quite the journey to witness Leo discovering for herself whom to trust and who wears but a respectable mask.
The plot took its time when it needed to but overall it raced through and I couldn’t, nor did I want to, put it down until I’d read it start to finish. The prose was beautiful, the characters fascinating, everything just fit together wonderfully! This is one that I will certainly be looking for to add to my bookshelf when a physical copy becomes available in US stores.
Really, this book was superb and an excellent choice for any who enjoy Austen’s stories, or seek a book waist-deep in the shady opium markets of London. And for further reading Henstra includes a list of recommended titles regarding the time period as well as a series of brief summations speaking to the research she compiled with regards to her book. All of this can be found in the back of Mad Miss Mimic.
Society, scandal, mystery, Mad Miss Mimic takes a sweet wealthy girl and plunges her into the icy depths of how far some men will go for money. Exhilarating, suspenseful, but with reassuring breaths of romance, this story is one that ought to dominate the shelves.
Purchase here: Mad Miss Mimic
Similar Recommended Reads: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas, Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley, Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Meet Sarah Henstra!
She is a professor of English literature at Ryerson University, where she teaches courses in Gothic Horror, Fairy Tales & Fantasies, Psychoanalysis & Literature, and Creative Writing. She grew up on the wild, wet coast of British Columbia, but now she lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two sons.