Monday, July 29, 2019

Book Review: "The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew" by Milly Johnson

When was the last time you couldn't get enough of a book and wanted to devour it in one sitting, yet when you were finished, you were sad? That happened for me with Milly Johnson's newest book, The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew. I wasn't familiar with Johnson's writing, but apparently she's known as "the Queen of Feel-Good Fiction" in the UK, and boy, they're not kidding!

Sophie Mayhew was raised to believe that a woman's purpose is to serve her husband, that the best thing she can do as a wife is to be a supportive and valuable spouse. And that's exactly what she has done for the last 14 years for her husband. John F. Mayhew is immensely handsome, politically shrewd, and ruthlessly ambitious, and with his glamorous, intelligent wife "Sophie the Trophy" by his side, he's one step away from becoming prime minister.

Sophie remembers when her relationship with John was full of passion rather than photo opportunities, spontaneity rather than scheduled appearances and carefully scripted remarks. But this is the role she agreed to, so even if she has had to sacrifice the things that bring her joy, even if her husband and her own family don't appreciate her for anything more than being the dutiful wife, she knows she is key to her husband's success. Even if the public and the media scrutinize her every move, her every outfit, her every expression, John is destined for greatness. That should be enough for her.

Then one day, scandal breaks. Sophie hears the allegations and is sad and angry, but not totally surprised. John's PR specialist assures them the scandal will go away quickly once Sophie lets the world know she stands faithfully by her man. Yet for some reason, Sophie can't bring herself to recite her prepared remarks and toe the line she always has. Instead, the words that spill out are spontaneous—and certainly not what John or his team wants anyone to hear. When everyone begins closing ranks around her to mitigate the damage, Sophie decides to flee to a small town on the coast where she spent the best summer of her life as a teenager.

"Sophie the Trophy was hardly known for being her own woman. If anything, she was the enemy of strong women. She existed in the shadow of her husband, she was good enough to work for him but not good enough to be given a wage for it. She bowed to his will, and for her pains he humiliated her in the worst way possible while lecturing the British public on keeping their own houses in order."

Sophie changes her appearance and assumes a new name, and hopes to keep a low profile. But she is shocked at how friendly the townspeople are, and how quickly they are to provide her food, supplies, smiles, simply because they recognize a person in need of help. For the first time in years, she starts to feel appreciated for her personality and her gifts, not scrutinized and criticized at every turn. And she realizes how horribly she's been mistreated, not only by her husband, but by her own family.

As she befriends Tracey, the owner of the local pub, and her brother, Elliott, the vicar, she comes to terms with the sacrifices she has made in her life. She doesn't know if she's ready to give up everything, or if she still loves her husband, but she knows that she feels freer and happier. As her feelings become more complicated, she knows she can't stay forever, but she doesn't know if she can step back into her old role, or if she's willing to give up everything she's known in order to really be herself.

"Kindness was not a weakness, it was an essential part of being a human being, a gift to be bestowed upon others, a strength."

Nothing that happens in The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew is surprising; you've certainly seen this story before. But Johnson has created characters that you'll want to root for and characters you'll loathe, and I for one couldn't get enough of this book. Watching Sophie blossom on her own and realize she could have a life where she could make her own decisions and do what makes her happy for once was heartwarming, and I loved her interactions with Tracey, Elliott, Luke, and others.

If you like "feel-good fiction" then be sure to pick up a copy of The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew. I read the entire book in a matter of hours, and now I'm missing the characters!

I was fortunate to be part of the blog tour for this book. Thanks to Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for giving me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review! See a Spotlight/Excerpt from the book at

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