Review: The Heiress Effect

Review: The Heiress EffectThe Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #2
Published by Courtney Milan on July 15th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 280
Goodreads
four-stars

Beautifully Crafted Story

THE HEIRESS EFFECT is the second novel in the Brothers Sinister series. It is the story of Oliver Marshall, the illegitimate son of the former Duke of Clermont and half brother to the current duke. Oliver was raised in humble circumstances (see the prequel THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR for the story of his parents) but has great ambitions. He meets Jane Fairfield who definitely doesn’t fit into his plans.

I really didn’t expect to like this story. Oliver was too judgemental and too rigid in the beginning of the book. He treats Jane in an abominable fashion by treating her like she is not good enough. When I started reading the book, I skipped around to get an idea of the plot and I really, really did not like Oliver. Thus, why one should read the book. Milan has done a great job of making over complicated characters. Oliver and Jane are not simplistic characters. They are not purely good. They make bad decisions. They contemplate bad things. By the end of the book, I had sympathy for Oliver and as Jane was able to forgive him, so was I.

Although this is the second full novel, it is not necessary to have read the first. It would be good to read the prequel THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR because it really sets up Oliver’s story.

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four-stars

Review: Talk Sweetly to Me

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Talk Sweetly to MeTalk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister, #4.5) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #4.5
Published by Courtney Milan on August 18th 2014
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-half-stars

TALK SWEETLY TO ME is billed as a coda to the fabulous Brothers Sinister series. The novella tells the story of Stephen Shaughnessy, who was introduced in THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL. Stephen writes a column for a women’s newspaper. (As an aside, the column is hysterical and THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL is worth reading just to catch up on them.)

In this novella, Shephen meets Rose Sweetly. Rose is a mathematician who helps with calculations regarding astronomical issues. Stephen and Rose live close to one another and Stephen loves to hear Rose talk about mathematics. Rose is intrigued with Stephen, but she is wary of him because he has a reputation as a rake and also because she is of African descent, she fears that he might believe she has loose morals.

This novella is short, but I loved the interaction between Rose and Stephen. Rose is brilliant and Stephen is clearly entranced with her. The story between the two is sweet and caring. The story reminds me somewhat of THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY, but with much less angst and pain.

The edge in this story comes from the racism and sexism of the society at large. What brings the characters together is that they both represent outsiders in society. Rose is black and is a brilliant female in a predominately male field. Stephen writes for a feminist newspaper and is an Irish Catholic. At one point, Rose points out that any children they would have would be black Irish Catholics and all of their lives would be immensely difficult.

Milan writes original stories. It is difficult that seduction and romance can be expressed through mathematics, but that is exactly what happens here.

This novella doesn’t have the complexity of a full-length novella, but I found it a beautiful addition to THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL. There are no appearances by other characters of the series so fans may be disappointed, but new readers can pick this one up without missing much (although it is best read after THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL because a reader will get to know Stephen better).

NOTE: I received a ARC copy of this book through Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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four-half-stars

Review: Unraveled

Review: UnraveledUnraveled (Turner, #3) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #3
Published by Courtney Milan on December 9th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 258
Goodreads
five-stars

Satisfying End to Turner Series

UNRAVELED is the final book in the Turner brother series. It is the story of Smite Turner, the middle brother and the one most scarred by his childhood. Smite is a magistrate when one day Miranda Darling comes to his courtroom disguised and intending to give false testimony. So starts this romance between a man who has kept himself together through riding rigid rules and a woman who has spent much of her life bending rules.

I enjoyed this story very much. Milan had done an incredible job in upending the expectations in her story. For example, when Miranda is being blackmailed by the villain, she doesn’t go of to deal with it alone but rather goes to Smite which is a sense of logic that often eludes characters in fiction.

The love story between Smite and Amanda was sweeter than I expected because Smite is as well. Miranda is sharp tongues and clever but also loving and caring and vulnerable. She is also incredible protective which makes her a good match for Smite –even if he would have disagreed with that initially.

This book can be read alone but it wraps up the entire series so well that a reader will best enjoy it by having read the output books.

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five-stars

Review: The Lady Always Wins

Review: The Lady Always WinsThe Lady Always Wins by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on February 22nd 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 71
Goodreads
four-stars

Story of Love Found,Again

THE LADY ALWAYS WINS is a short novella about Ginny Barrett and Simon Davenant. Simon and Ginny were childhood friends and sweethearts but when Simon wanted to marry her in the face of his father’s disapproval, Ginny refused. Seven years later, Ginny is a widow and Simon intends to marry her. He only has the days to convince her because he will lose everything in the days and she refuses to marry a poor man.

This is a great short story. Milan was able to give these characters life and a long story without rushing or shortchanging the romance. This story has a great plot and I liked the resolution to the romance. I liked the romance and ended up liking both characters even though I didn’t start out liking them. Great job for a short story.
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four-stars

Review: What Happened at Midnight

Review: What Happened at MidnightWhat Happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on March 14th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 104
Goodreads
four-stars

Story About Complicated Lives

WHAT HAPPENED AT MIDNIGHT is a novella about Mary Chartley who is the daughter of the business partner of John Mason. When it is revealed that Mary’s father has embezzled from the partnership, it severs the relationship between Mary and John. Eighteen months later, John is searching for Mary because he believes she knows what her father did with the embezzled funds. He is surprised when he finds Mary living not on the money but as a lady’s companion.

I liked this story because there were many twists to edge secrets that Mary is keeping. My description of the heart of the story is from the story itself: “He wished this were clean and uncomplicated. But it was messy and complex. For a short novella, Milan packs a lot in about expectations and topless and overcoming limitations.

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four-stars

Review: The Suffragette Scandal

Review: The Suffragette ScandalThe Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #4
Published by Courtney Milan on July 15th 2014
Genres: Historical
Pages: 260
Goodreads
four-half-stars

THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL is the fourth novel in the Brothers Sinister Series. It can be read independent of all the others, but the others are so good that a reader should start with the prequel novella THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR. THE SUFFRAGETTE SCANDAL is the story of Frederica “Free” Marshall, the younger sister of Oliver from THE HEIRESS EFFECT. Free is a modern, strong, independent woman. She is a supporter of women’s rights and runs her own newspaper. Edward Clark is a self proclaimed scoundrel. Having been abandoned by his aristocratic family, Edward has spent years making himself. He returns to England to help an old friend and ends up involved with Free.

I loved this book. Free and Edward are characters that I haven’t seen before. Free is strong and independent without being strident and yet has brought pain to herself. Edward is damaged and believes himself unworthy of a happy ending. These two are haunted by their pasts but Edward has a very poor self image. I liked how adult and reasonable these two are. This book is also funny. From the beginning Free and Edward have a repartee that had me lagging, smirking and giggling. For me the pages flew in this book.

The romance ended up being sweeter than I expected, but I was completely happy with how the book turned out. Milan has a wonderful way of subverting expectations and tropes. The language, characters and resolutions always end up being fresh and vibrant. The previous heroes and heroines appear but not in ways that works befuddle new readers.

There is one additional novella that follows that will finish off this series. Huzzah!

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four-half-stars

Review: Once Upon a Marquess

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Once Upon a MarquessOnce Upon a Marquess (The Worth Saga #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: The Worth Saga #1
Published by Courtney Milan on December 8th 2015
Genres: Historical
Pages: 372
Goodreads
four-stars

Complex Romance to Kick Off New Series

“Once upon a time, there had been a marquess and Lady Judith Worth had thought that he would conquer the world. He had. She just hadn’t realized at the time that he meant to take it from her.”

FINAL DECISION: Complex and difficult situations face the couple in ONCE UPON A MARQUESS which proves that second chances are possible. Judith and Christian have a painful past and yet they yearn to be together. Complex, well written and an a great first course of the Worth Saga.

THE STORY: Judith Worth struggles to keep what is left of her family together. Eight years before, her life fell apart when her brother and father were accused of being traitors. The facts supporting the accusations came from the man that Judith once thought to marry. Christian Trent, Marquess of Ashford spent summers with the Worth family and Judith’s brother was his best friend. He expected to marry Judith but when he father killed himself and her brother was transported, Judith rejected him. Christian has never forgotten Judith. Now the two meet again when Judith needs his help finding out what has happened to her younger sister. Despite their sad past, the two still feel an uneasy attraction to one another.

OPINION: Milan is a master at crafting complex and difficult situations for her characters to navigate. ONCE UPON MARQUESS introduces readers to the Worth family who have many secrets. For me, the weakness of the book was the amount of exposition necessary to provide introductions to all the different dramas that are starting out for the members of the family.

I am a great believer in Milan’s work, however, and I am sure that the complexity and drama will continue and develop throughout the series.

The romance of Judith and Christian is difficult and I loved how they rationally talk through their issues. Milan’s characters are great talkers. Their romance is partially a debate regarding the issues that challenge their happiness. ONCE UPON A MARQUESS is not only about romance. It is also about finding oneself through challenges, about weighing following the letter of the law and the harm that it causes, about the challenges that women face.

MIlan’s books always make me think. Not only is the romance sweeping, but the issues they face are complex and the answer is not always clear. I thought that Judith and Christian have a sweet romance. Christian has challenges of his own. Losing Judith meant that he lost the woman who understood his quirks.

In the years since they parted, both Judith and Christian have been pretending. They have been living lives made comfortable by accepting lies. Those lies have become impossible for them to continue to live with. Christian fears that he made a mistake by disclosing the crimes of his best friend and Judith fears that her beloved brother might actually have been guilty of treason. Redemption for these characters comes from confronting reality rather than relying on comforting lies.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book introduces a whole lot of characters and situations that will be explored further in the subsequent books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONCE UPON A MARQUESS is the first book in the Worth Saga.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

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four-stars

Review: The Countess Conspiracy

Review: The Countess ConspiracyThe Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister, #3) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #3
Published by Courtney Milan on December 16th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 309
Goodreads
five-stars

Friends to Lovers

THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY is the third novel in the Brothers Sinister series. It is the story of Sebastian Malheur and Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Sebastian and Violet have been friends almost all their lives. They share a secret but also have deep secrets from one another. The shared secret is that the scientific research that Sebastian is known for is actually Violet’s. In an age where women were not accepted for their intellectual gifts, the two created a way for her work to be accepted.

I absolutely loved this book. From the beginning Violet and Sebastian have an incredible relationship that is founded on respect. Sebastian has loved Violet for years and has always cared for her. I don’t think I have read a romance book with such a unique relationship. Both Sebastian and Violet present facades to the world but know one another. As they discover the secrets that they kept for one another, they discover how to make the transition to lovers.

This book was not a lighthearted read. Violet’s secret is heart wrenching and it makes the relationship between Sebastian and Violet complex and serious. I won’t give away her secret here since it is central to the story, but it and the entire storyline demonstrates how oppressed women were in that era. This book makes the point without being preachy or anachronistic.

I love the strong women that Milan creates. Violet is fallible and sometimes weak, but she is intelligent and strong and independent. The complexity of her characters is amazing.

A beautiful book that I immediately wanted to read again.

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five-stars

Review: Unlocked

Review: UnlockedUnlocked (Turner, #1.5) by Courtney Milan
Series: Turner #1.5
Published by Courtney Milan on May 26th 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 111
Goodreads
four-stars

Companion Novella to the Turner series

UNLOCKED is the story of Lady Elaine Warren who is a friend of Margaret in UNVEILED, the first book in the Turner series. Elaine is trained and tormented in the ballrooms of the ton. Because of her laugh, she is known as Lady Equine. The man who have her that nickname had returned after ten years. Evan Carlton, the Earl of Westfeld is immensely sorry for his treatment of Elaine. He recognizes the hurt he has caused and wants the chance to make amends and be a better person.

I really liked the romance between Elaine and Evan. The hurt that Evan caused does not go away easily. There are no quick solutions here. Elaine does not quickly forget her torment and fall in the hero’s arms. I liked Elaine. She has a quiet strength. “You cannot break me” is how she has survived.

This novella is not dependent upon the other books in the series and can be read independently.
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four-stars

Review: The Duchess War

Review: The Duchess WarThe Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #1
Published by Courtney Milan on December 8th 2012
Genres: Historical
Pages: 270
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Very Enjoyable Book

THE DUCHESS WAR is the first novel in the Brothers Sinister series. It is the story of Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, who suffers from the evil that his father did. Robert is a good man, and a radical, who wants to use his position for changing the world. He meets Minerva Lane, who has made a point of hiding because of her scandalous past.

This book took a while to really grab me. There is a lot of set up involved in the story and at times the threads of the story just went on and on. However, by the middle of the book, I began to really love the character of Robert, who is sensitive and caring. He lived such a sad life but did not become hardened.

These two characters have a slow building relationship that I really enjoyed. These were two people who had seen a hard world and yet found in each other a kindred spirit.

Spoilers: I really loved that Robert and Minerva were both virgins on their wedding night and that things did not go perfectly, but that they worked through learning together. There was something really real and sweet about them.

I look forward to the other books in the series. There is a great introduction to them here.

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four-half-stars