Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: The Belles of London Series Continues with The Lily of Ludgate Hill

Books Features Mimi Matthews
Exclusive Cover Reveal + Excerpt: The Belles of London Series Continues with The Lily of Ludgate Hill

Horse girls, a period setting, and sizzling romantic tension is the Venn diagram of many a romance reader, and no one is doing it better (or having more fun) than author Mimi Matthews. Her popular Belles of London series is a lightly interconnected collection of stories that feature feminist sensibilities, sparkling dialogue, genuine emotional heft, and a bevy of well-researched period details. 

The series launched in 2022 with The Siren of Sussex, which mixed Victorian high society, horseback riding, and the birth of haute couture. It was followed by The Belle of Belgrave Square, a Gothic Beauty and the Beast retelling inspired by ghost stories and dark fairytales, with a decadent slow burn love story at its center. Its third installment, titled, The Lily of Ludgate Square, will hit shelves next year and follows the story of another daring equestrienne and features a poignant second chance romance with an enemies-to-lovers twist. 

Here’s how the publisher describes the story. 

Lady Anne Deveril doesn’t spook easily. A woman of lofty social standing known for her glacial beauty and starchy opinions, she’s the unofficial leader of her small group of equestriennes. Since her mother’s devastating plunge into mourning six years ago, Anne voluntarily renounced any fanciful notions of love and marriage. And yet, when fate puts Anne back into the entirely too enticing path of Mr. Felix Hartford, she’s tempted to run…right into his arms.

No one understands why Lady Anne withdrew into the shadows of society, Hart least of all. The youthful torch he once held for her has long since cooled. Or so he keeps telling himself. But now Anne needs a favor to help a friend. Hart will play along with her little ruse—on the condition that Anne attend a holiday house party at his grandfather’s country estate. No more mourning clothes. No more barriers. Only the two of them, unrequited feelings at last laid bare.

Finally free to gallop out on her own, Anne makes the tantalizing discovery that beneath the roguish exterior of her not-so-white knight is a man with hidden depths, scorching passions—and a tender heart.

The Lily of Ludgate Hill will hit shelves on January 16, 2024, but we’re excited to be able to share a first look at its cover—and an excerpt from the story itself! 

Lily of Ludgate Hill cover



The Lily of Ludgate Hill by Mimi Matthews
Excerpt from Chapter Seven

Outside, the sound of groaning gears and grinding metal announced their approach to Derby Station.

Hart straightened his blue-and-green-plaid waistcoat as the train decreased its speed. Made in wool twill, it matched the pattern of his plaid coat and trousers. A rather dashing ensemble, he thought, despite the disdain his valet, Bishop, held for it. The long-suffering fellow was currently consigned to a lower-class carriage at the back of the train with the ladies’ maids.

“We can get out briefly,” Hart said. “It will give us a chance to stretch our legs.”

Lady Arundell looked up from her journal, oblivious to the noise of the slowing train. “I’m quite comfortable as I am.”

Hart could well believe it. He’d paid handsomely for their fare, and a king’s ransom on top of it in order to ensure they weren’t obliged to share their compartment with any strangers.

“We won’t have another stop of this length until we change trains at York,” he said. “If you’re feeling at all restless—”

“You go ahead,” Lady Arundell cut him off, returning to her reading. “And you, Anne. I don’t require you keeping guard over me.”

Anne compressed her lips, visibly displeased with her mother’s directive. But when the train pulled into the station, announcing its arrival with a shrill whistle, she rose along with Hart to disembark.

He offered her his arm as they stepped down from the first-class carriage.

She grudgingly took it. “You look an absolute peacock.”

Hart grinned. He frequently wore loud colors and patterns in the presence of Anne and her mother. Someone among them must, particularly on this occasion. If he’d submitted to wearing a black suit, as Bishop had suggested, the three of them would look no better than a trio of mourners on their way to a Yorkshire funeral.

“And what does that make you, my fair Fury?” Hart asked, guiding her through the crowd of passengers waiting to board. It was a noisy, chaotic scene, with porters shouting and travelers rushing in every direction through the billowing smoke that swirled about the platform.

“A black crow, I don’t wonder,” Anne answered frankly. She had never hesitated to voice plain truths, even if they pricked her vanity.

Hart liked her all the better for it.

“A raven, surely,” he said. “A noble and intelligent bird.”

“Whereas a peacock—”

“Not as intelligent, to be sure.” He dropped his head to hers, sinking his voice to murmur in her ear. “But attractive to have around, you must admit.”

A smile quivered on Anne’s lips. She mastered it before it could fully appear. “Why must you always be so—”

“Cheerful? Felix means happiness. Or don’t you recall your Latin?”

“I gather you’ve taken up your Christian name as a personal challenge.”

“Perhaps I have,” he said. As a boy, it had certainly been aspirational. “I suppose you disapprove of good cheer, just as you do of peacocks?”

“Don’t be absurd,” she said. “And I have good reason to think ill of peacocks. We had them at Cherry Hill when I was a girl. They screeched awfully. It was the most alarming sound.”

“I remember.” Hart tucked her black-gloved hand more firmly in the crook of his arm. “Shall we walk to the bookseller’s?”

“If you like.”

Hart turned them in the direction of the bookstand. The small counter with its background of shelves was just visible halfway down the platform.

Anne’s skirts brushed his leg as they walked. A trace of her perfume drifted to his nose, stirring his blood and bringing his senses to attention. It was the same scent she’d worn in her youth—a bewitching blend of vanilla and rose, at once exotic and lushly sweet. The fragrance conjured vivid memories of the past.

He hadn’t been this close to her in a long while. He’d forgotten how natural it felt. How perfectly and wonderfully right.

They fit each other. They always had. Though not so much in size. He was well over six feet tall, and she . . . markedly less so. But she was no frail damsel, for all that. She was brisk and vigorous. A bastion of strength.

That strength had appeared to lessen over the years. Her mother had taken it from her. But a diminished Anne Deveril was still more vital—more deliciously formidable—than any lady of Hart’s acquaintance.

He savored every second in her company.

“You might enjoy something to read,” he said. “It would be preferable to staring out the window for the whole of our journey.”

“I’ve no wish to read,” she said. “I have a great deal on my mind.”

“So I gather.” He paused. “Tell me, sweetheart. Did you and your mother have a quarrel?”

She gave him a sharp look.

It was answer enough.

“Well, well,” he murmured. “Will wonders never cease?”

Anne’s brow darkened with annoyance. “Must you be such a know-all?”

“I know nothing. I’m a man who exists only for my own amusement—or so someone recently told me. I do, however, take the occasional interest in matters outside the pleasurable. You among them.”

“How flattering.”

Hart studied her face. The weariness was still there, present in the smudges under her eyes and the rare hint of gray in her alabaster complexion. It did nothing to mar her beauty. She was, and always would be, the dazzling golden girl of his youth.

“You may as well tell me what’s happened,” he said. “I’ll only plague you until I find out.”

She gave an irritated huff. “Very well. If you must know, Miss Wychwood isn’t in any danger after all. I received a letter from her this morning informing me that she’s married Captain Blunt of her own free will. Which means, there’s no reason on God’s green earth for us to be making this infernal journey.”

Hart failed to suppress a shout of laughter.

A fashionable woman passing by, in company with her children and servants, gave him a look of well-bred contempt. Outward shows of emotion were viewed as being lower class and therefore undesirable. Hart was well aware of the prejudice. It had no effect on his good humor.

Anne, however, was mortified.

And furious.

“Of all the—” She attempted to free her arm. “If you’re going to bray like a jackass—”

Hart covered her gloved hand with his. “Forgive me. It was a reflex.”

“The reflex of an insensitive—”

“A jackass, as you’ve established. Come. Don’t make a scene.”

Me? I’m not the one laughing at another’s misfortune on a busy railway platform.”

“What misfortune?” Hart gently settled her hand back in place. “You still get to see your friend. There must be some utility in that. And, as an added bonus, you get to spend a few days in my company. How long did you say it’s been? Six and a half years?”

“You know exactly how long it’s been,” she said. “Must you always be teasing me?”

“You’d prefer to talk seriously?”

She looked away from him, turning her face to stare out at the platform. Her expression turned pensive. “I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Hart felt a nameless stab of regret. This was his fault, this lost look on her face. Anne may have rejected him six and a half years ago, but he hadn’t been blameless in what came after. He’d been surly. Unsympathetic. He’d wanted her so damned much. At the time, not having her had been a blow from which he feared he might never recover.

And perhaps he hadn’t.

His voice deepened with genuine sincerity. “I’m not always of a mind to tease you, Anne,” he said. “I’d like to speak seriously, too. If you’re willing.”

“To what end?” she asked. “You’ve moved on with your life, clearly.”

Hart’s brows notched in a frown. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You said yourself that you’re in the market for a bride.”

“I never—” He stopped himself, recalling his provoking words to her when she’d called on him in Arlington Street. “That was only my feeble attempt at—”

“What you failed to mention is that you were already courting someone.”


“Don’t deny it. You were seen with her in Battersea Park, driving her in your curricle. A great beauty, by all accounts.”

Later, Hart would replay the scene in his mind, excoriating himself for his stupendous insensitivity. But in the moment, thinking of Ethel Neale and the melodramatic circumstances she’d been relating as he’d driven her in the park, he couldn’t help but utter another laugh.

It was the exact wrong thing to do.

Jerking free of his arm, Anne spun on her heel and stalked back toward the first-class carriage in a furious swish of black silk.

Hart strode after her through the smoke, immediately contrite. “Anne, wait.”

“Don’t speak to me again,” she said.

He dared a half smile. “Ever?”

She glared back at him, cheeks flushed with something like embarrassment. “Never,” she said. “Not unless you first manage to grow up.”

Excerpted from THE LILY OF LUDGATE HILL by Mimi Matthews Copyright © 2024 by Mimi Matthews. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 The Lily of Ludgate Hill will be released on January 16, 2024, but you can preorder it right now.

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB

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