Solicitor Tom Finchley was taken out of the orphanage where he grew up and apprenticed to a solicitor in London. Under his tutelage, Tom learned the Machiavellian ways of manipulation and threats that the solicitors of the time crafted. He is ready to change his ways and settle down to a quiet life as his friend Justin Thornhill has done (in book #1). While helping Justin and Helena he had met Helena’s companion Jenny Holloway and been intrigued. After having been given a modest amount of money which would allow her independence, Jenny is ready for adventure. She comes to Tom to receive those funds so she may go off to India to search for Helena’s brother the Earl of Castledon. While there having the adventure she always wanted and without the help of any man. Needless to say, Tom upsets these plans.
In A Modest Independence Mimi Matthews gives us more of a glimpse of how a woman’s life during this time in history is curtailed by who she is tied to; a husband, brother, or father. In this case Tom decides to join Jenny on her journey as her “brother” as it would not be correct for a man and woman to travel alone, despite his having hired two Indian servants to join her. Their attraction for each other grows due to the close confines, the question is how or if they will do anything about it and the societal rules that would be broken if they did. I’ll admit to finding that fascinating.
Another glimpse behind how people lived during this time is provided through Ahmad and Mira the two half Indian cousins that Tom hired as Jenny’s servants on the journey. As they are half British and half Indian, how are they treated? There are plenty of moments that show their inequality and provide great context to this time as well as help us get to know these two characters who are in A Siren in Sussex.
As an aside, part of the novel takes place in Egypt, which I am currently vacationing in and found fun to read and see through our heroine‘s eyes the sites and sounds of a Cairo That is much different than it is today.
I am again fascinated by this author’s writing style and the realism that she imbues into her story. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this novel so much without the moments of inequality, conflict, and concerns that our heroine would retain her independence. I loved Tom Finchley’s bravery in the face of this type of woman and loved that they found a way to be together. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❣️
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